October 8, 1995
Web posted at: 9:52 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Jim Hill
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- O.J. Simpson merchandise and memorabilia were hot sellers during the trial. Now the former football star is looking for new ways to market his image.
The image of O.J. Simpson in court is one that many will never forget. But it's the legend of the ex-football star that Simpson is promoting, and apparently doing quite well at it. "It's probably the leading seller in the store right now, we've sold out twice," said Al Thomas, of All Star Collectibles.
Simpson's licensing agent, Mike Gilbert, says there have been nine new contracts presented to Simpson. Six have been negotiated and three are about to be signed. He says all the contracts deal with sports collectibles and public appearances by Simpson.
Joe Kaufenberg is a businessman who invested in O.J. Simpson during the trial. He bought 3,000 autographed copies of Simpson's book. He says about half the shipment has already been sold. "At the time I bought it, it was worth about $225,000," said Kaufenberg. "This book now even sells for $450 in England and Japan and in a lot of other countries, including in the U.S. We wholesale them to the dealers for $150."
Among the items that have been marketed is a photo, autographed by O.J. Simpson and his lead trial attorney Johnnie Cochran. So far only 200 were signed and put on sale. Eight hundred more are planned.
During the trial, customers were sharply divided on whether they would buy O.J. Simpson memorabilia. So far the verdict hasn't changed that.
The morality of selling Simpson has reportedly troubled two major distributors of pay-per-view television. The Los Angeles Times reports the firms were approached by independent producers about a possible Simpson interview. Both turned down the idea as exploitive and inappropriate.
The courtroom verdict leaves no legal question about O.J. Simpson. A jury found him not guilty and he is a free man. But a free marketplace responds more to the court of public opinion. That judgment may forever keep customers divided.
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