The Beatles' first contract with manager Brian Epstein sells for £275k

On 24 January 1962, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and original Beatles drummer Pete Best signed a management contract with Brian Epstein, promising him a fee of 10%, rising to 15% if their income exceeded £120 a week – a sum that McCartney had negotiated down from 20%. Under 21 at the time, McCartney, Harrison and Best had to ask their parents’ consent to sign the contract.

That document has now sold at auction for £275,000, raising money for the Ernest Hecht Charitable Foundation.

Then a record shop owner and music writer, Epstein discovered the Beatles performing at Liverpool’s Cavern Club in November 1961, remarking on their “star quality”. He extricated them from a German recording arrangement and a label deal with Polydor, and signed them to EMI label Parlophone.

The 1962 contract between the Beatles and Brian Epstein.

The 1962 contract between the Beatles and Brian Epstein. Photograph: Anthony Harvey/REX/Shutterstock

After the group replaced Best with Ringo Starr in August 1962, they signed a second contract with Epstein on 1 October, giving him a higher percentage of their earnings.

Sotheby’s auction house specialist Gabriel Heaton was in charge of the auction. “Epstein was just blown away by the passion, the energy, the charisma, the raw sexuality on stage,” he said.

“The Beatles had the stage energy but he instilled a sense of professionalism in them. Epstein stopped them eating on stage, made sure they played the songs properly and coherently, and he got them bowing at the end of a set.”

The group became world-famous in the months after meeting Epstein and sharpening up their act. He guided them through their American breakout, although his one misstep is considered to be signing over 90% of what would have been the phenomenally lucrative rights to the band’s US merchandising.

Epstein died of a barbiturate overdose on 27 August 1967, two months before the release of Magical Mystery Tour. His death was officially ruled an accident. In 1970, Lennon told Rolling Stone that he considered Epstein’s death the beginning of the end for the group. “I knew that we were in trouble then … I thought: We’ve had it now.”


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