A few words about John Sinfield

Posted by Kelvyn Gardner on March 23, 2011

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On Thursday 24th March the funeral will take place of  UK licensing veteran John Sinfield. John died tragically earlier this month in an accident while on holiday in Barbados, a destination that he and his surviving wife, Helen Bailey, had come to know and love. Those of us who had the honour to know John have been deeply touched by his untimely death. When I first entered the industry in the early 1980s John was one of the few who already seemed to embody ‘UK licensing’. Hailing from  the generation just before my own, John was one of the early UK pioneers, moving as did his peers from a career in television – marketing or ad sales – into the fledgling business of licensing ‘rights’. It’s hard to imagine now taking those early steps. If we don’t have a recognisable ( at least to outsiders ) industry today, how much more perfunctory must it have appeared in the mid 1970s?  John joined forces  with fellow TV exec Chris Patrick to form Patrick, Sinfield, Ltd, known to us all as PSL. PSL was to have exciting early success, followed by many years of solid professionalism representing a string of major international properties. In 1982, as representatives of Universal Studios, they handled the licensing of ET, the Extraterrestrial. ET made such an impression on the UK media that the TV companies even shot a feature on this young agency, working in an exciting venture with a hit Hollywood film! How thrilling! I remember seeing it myself, filmed in the tiny office PSL had near the London theatre that was the home for more than twenty five years of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. ET helped put PSL on the map, and they have been a prominent feature thereupon ever since.

John himself was not one for the limelight, being a pragmatist and a prudent manager of his company’s affairs first and foremost. He certainly helped me greatly in the early years of my own first business venture, Merlin Publishing, putting us into deals for sticker collections when up against more established competition. I have many happy memories of business we did together. Last year I wrote in Bottom Line about the 25th anniversary of Back to the Future. That was another deal I did with John, and the advance screening of the film that he staged still remains probably the single most surprising, gobsmacking,  ‘must have these rights’ moment in my licensing career.  John would have been a worthy inductee of LIMA’s Licensing Hall of Fame, though he never would have sought such an acknowledgement. He will be sadly missed.