The Reverend Al Sharpton wants movies made and books written about his life as one of the nation's premiere civil rights leaders (sort of), but any interested parties will have to shell out a pretty penny for the rights to Sharpton's life story.
According to Fox News, Sharpton recently sold his "life story rights for a 10-year period,” to his own non-profit, National Action Network, for a stunning $531,000.
National Action Network is now authorized to turn around and sell Sharpton's life story to any interested Hollywood producers or high-profile biographers, in the event any come knocking. Since Sharpton sold the rights to himself, though, it doesn't look like there's high demand.
It's also not clear if Sharpton profited from the sale — above and beyond the quarter million per year he already pulls down from National Action Network for serving as its chief executive officer.
"The [sale] document does not indicate when Sharpton, who is president of NAN, gets the cash, which is above and beyond the $244,661 he already pulled down in compensation from the group in 2017," Fox News reports. "Sharpton also wouldn’t say when the cash would come in."
Instead, Sharpton seemed shocked the question of his own personal profit was even posed by a New York Post reporter who caught up with the "activist" at a weekend event for Nelson Mandela's 100th birthday. “What does that have to do with anything?” Sharpton reportedly shouted.
After apparently calming down, Sharpton explained that the idea for the sale came from National Action Network's board members who felt they could earn money for the non-profit by selling Sharpton's tale to entertainers and authors, even if they might wait until Sharpton has passed on into eternity for his story to have any value to production companies.
Sharpton contended to the Post that his life story is, in fact, valuable, and that there are three movies in the works, as well as a stage play. National Action Network, he says, also owns the rights to rare, archival footage of Sharpton partying down with the likes of James Brown and Michael Jackson.
“You’ve got real property here. You’re not talking about just me as an activist. These are non-related NAN things that are the saleable items,” Sharpton reportedly told Post reporters.
Tax experts say that while Sharpton's non-profit may make some money from the rights, the deal ultimately benefits Sharpton in ways that could be problematic.
"If NAN paid too much it could run afoul of IRS rules regarding excess benefits given to a nonprofit’s key officials, which might put its tax-exempt status in jeopardy," a tax expert told the Post. The National Action Network board would likely have to provide proof to the IRS that they made the deal independent of any pressure from Sharpton or his camp, and that it would have made more sense for Sharpton to sell the rights to a production company and let National Action Network pocket those proceeds instead.
If there's one thing clear about the deal, though, its that it benefits Sharpton. The notorious race hustler is still nearly $800,000 in tax debt to the state of New York, and has $2.5 million in outstanding federal liens against his companies issued by the IRS. The Post reports Sharpton is paying off the debts on an "installment plan."