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Roger Richman, pioneer in licensing for dead celebrities’ images; at 69

Roger Richman posed in his Beverly Hills office with Marilyn Monroe merchandise he licensed worldwide. Bob Galbraith/Associated Press/file 1992/Associated Press

NEW YORK — Roger Richman, a celebrity agent who is widely credited with helping to invent the dead celebrity industry, a multimillion-dollar realm built on licensing the rights to images of the prominent posthumously, died Oct. 9 in Los Angeles. He was 69.

His death was confirmed by his son, Alexander Steenbakkers-Noffke, who said his father had been hospitalized but did not specify the illness.

In 1984, Mr. Richman, whose clients included the heirs of Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Sigmund Freud, and Bela Lugosi, helped push through the California Celebrity Rights Act, the formative legislation in an effort to protect the rights of celebrity estates.


He traveled frequently to Sacramento to lobby lawmakers, sometimes bringing well-connected advocates, such as the children of John Wayne, Fred Astaire’s widow, or the living Elizabeth Taylor . When the law passed that September, it gave heirs control over how a celebrity’s image, voice, or name was used posthumously.

No longer could an opportunistic manufacturer legally make T-shirts, toilet paper, or television commercials bearing the likenesses of famous dead people without first getting their estates to approve.

The law’s passage proved a financial boon to the heirs of countless stars. New merchandising efforts and afterlife advertising campaigns appeared. One of the most notable was a Ford Mustang commercial that ran in the early 2000s featuring a computer-simulated Steve McQueen speeding through a cornfield more than two decades after he died.

Roger Blum Richman was born in Washington.

In 1978, he founded the Roger Richman Agency. He sold the company in 2005 to the image licensing company Corbis.