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Thursday, August 13, 1998 Published at 21:14 GMT 22:14 UK

Business: The Company File

Winnie the Pooh row divides Garrick

Millions in Pooh earnings up for grabs

The prospect of a 50m ($80m) copyright windfall from children's book character Winnie the Pooh has split London's exclusive men's group, the Garrick Club.

The Disney Corporation holds the film, TV and licensing rights for Winnie the Pooh until 2006 after they were sold by the beneficiaries of Pooh creator AA Milne's estate, which include the Garrick Club.

But under proposed changes to US copyright law, Disney may be able to tie up the rights for a further 20 years earning copyright fees of about 200m ($320m) for Winnie the Pooh's 'owners', the beneficiaries.

Other beneficiaries are Milne's family, his old school Westminster College, the Royal Literary Fund, and the family of former Pooh illustrator E.H.Shepard.

Club squabbles

The Garrick club, of which Milne was a member, stands to reap up to 50m of the windfall prompting an internal squabble in the club over what should be done with the money, which amounts to about 39,000 per member.

[ image: Lamont wants his share]
Lamont wants his share
Members will vote on the issue at a special general meeting on Friday.

The club's management committee, under chairman Anthony Butcher, has proposed the money be split between a charitable fund and renovations to club headquarters.

Garrick member Clive Aslet has told BBC1's Business Breakfast he believes the money should be used to widen the club's appeal and membership to younger people.

Lamont wants the money

However, former Tory chancellor Lord Lamont reportedly supports the money being divided up between the members.

Others suggest that members are wealthy enough already and should give the money away to charity, saying that is what the author would have wanted.

If the US's proposed copyright changes do not go through, rights to Pooh under current laws will dissolve in 2006, 50 years after Milne's death.

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