Rivals do deal on Britney pic

Spears poses with husband Jason Alexander

An unusual deal struck between rival tabloid newspapers stopped US magazines from buying the rights to the sole picture of pop singer Britney Spears’ secret wedding.

Los Angeles-based agency Splash News and Pictures bought the UK and European rights to the picture for $100,000 (£54,000) after it emerged that American newlywed Daniel Trujillo was auctioning them.

Trujillo wed his fiancée shortly after Spears was married in a $250 ceremony at the Little White Wedding Chapel, Las Vegas, and arranged for a photo of both couples to be taken.

Realising the value of the snap he began negotiating with media representatives early on Monday evening (GMT) as the deadline for British newspapers approached.

Splash co-founder Gary Morgan said: “The Sun’s John Edwards was involved in negotiations a little bit before we came in and he deserves some of the credit. We managed to do a deal that kept everybody happy.

“We knew that if we couldn’t buy the UK and European rights it would leave the way open for People in the US to buy the world rights. We managed to secure it for the English papers together.”

Morgan said Splash owned the rights but the five London tabloids agreed to contribute to the cost of buying the photograph.

He said negotiations were completed with just minutes to spare before UK first edition news deadlines at about 7.30pm on Monday evening.

“It was a risk but we felt it was well worth it. Most of the English magazines are going to run it as well and we should be selling it throughout Europe.

“If this got into a bidding war the price could easily have gone up to $250,000 – especially if the US magazines had started bidding for the worldwide rights.

“We managed to keep the price down to a figure that everyone could afford. If a US magazine had bought the worldwide rights it would have delayed the picture by at least a day or two and it would have made Thursday or Friday’s papers.”

Morgan estimated that Trujillo made about $300,000 from the photo – an additional $100,000 each for the US television and magazine rights. He is now reported to be negotiating a fee for giving his first media interview.

The News of the World claimed in last week’s Press Gazette to be the only UK Sunday paper to break news of Spears’ secret wedding.

Although the NoW was first with the news and put it on the front page, the Sunday Mirror also broke the story, fitting it in as a sidebar on page 11 of its last edition.

POLICE DROP CHARGES

A British photographer arrested while trying to photograph pop star Michael Jackson for the Splash agency has had the charges against him dropped by US police.

Lee Madden was waiting in a hangar at Santa Barbara Airport for Jackson’s private Gulfstream jet to touch down when he was arrested. Jackson was returning to California to face charges of child abuse.

Instead of getting exclusive pictures of the singer, Madden was booked by Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department a few minutes before Jackson.

He was held in a crowded cell for nine hours following his November arrest for trespass, but this week police admitted he had no case to answer.

Splash co-founder Kevin Smith said Madden had permission from the jet company to be in the hangar.

He said: “He had every right to be there, but when push came to shove Jackson’s security guards said ‘who the hell are you?’ The police decided to arrest him first and ask questions later.

“If it hadn’t been for the arrest we would have had world exclusive pictures of Jackson surrendering to police and being led away in handcuffs.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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