Battling to Make Bruce Lee a Lucrative Brand





Shannon Lee, the daughter and heir of martial-arts expert Bruce Lee, is trying to add some pow to the late movie star's legacy.

In a bid to tap into growing interest in Mr. Lee in China and to develop her father into a powerhouse global brand, Ms. Lee last year bought back the rights to his image from General Electric Co.'s Universal Studios, which had held them since the late 1980s. "They didn't put the effort behind it I felt should be put behind it," she says. Universal declined to comment.

Then she formed Bruce Lee Enterprises, a licensing company, and LeeWay Media Group, a production company, to raise his profile. Ms. Lee also consulted with the estates of other famous people, including Elvis Presley and John Wayne, to learn more about how to successfully revive a deceased icon's image.

In recent years, the Bruce Lee brand has brought in around $1 million a year, the estate says. With the new push, Ms. Lee hopes she can squeeze $5 million to $10 million from it annually. She has already signed deals with companies ranging from Lucky Brand Dungarees Inc. to Charter Communications Inc. Charter is using her father's image in an ad featuring a woman who watched Bruce Lee's kicks and chops on a TV screen and then imitated them, a Charter spokeswoman says. Lucky is using his image on T-shirts, Lucky's marketing manager says.

Ms. Lee, who studied martial arts under one of her father's former students, has also signed a deal with Corbis Corp.'s Greenlight, the company that represents scientist Albert Einstein, actor Steve McQueen and others, to represent Mr. Lee for advertising and endorsements Later this month, she will kick off an expanded Web site to serve as a social-networking community for his fans and a home for a blog, which will alert followers to new projects and events.

Too many people know her father just from his movies, the 40-year-old Ms. Lee says. "I feel very responsible about having a certain level of care." By bringing him back into the public eye, she hopes more people will learn about his values, such as the importance of sticking up for what you believe and breaking down racial, gender and generational barriers. The Bruce Lee Foundation tries to get those messages out through seminars and scholarships, but she thinks raising her father's profile in pop culture will help as well...


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