Last month, I posted on the historic bequest of Margaret Mitchell’s estate to the Catholic Church. Now, here’s a look at one of the key figures involved, Deacon Steve Swope.
Steve Swope, the deacon who is overseeing the late Joseph Mitchell’s multimillion-dollar “Gone With the Wind” bequest to the Archdiocese of Atlanta, discovered quickly that Mitchell’s munificent gift was going to take him into uncharted territory.
“I received a call a couple of weeks ago from someone who learned that we were going to conduct an auction so that some of Mr. Mitchell’s various personal possessions could be sold. He asked if the auction would take place at our office or at Tara,” Deacon Swope said in a telephone interview from his office in Atlanta.
“When I asked him what he meant by Tara — since there are shopping centers and movie theaters called Tara — he replied, ‘You know, Tara, down near Jonesboro in the book.’ I think he was very disappointed to learn the truth — that Tara, like Scarlett, Rhett, Mammy, Ashley and the rest, is simply fiction.”
Mitchell’s donation has drawn worldwide attention, particularly because, in addition to significant funds, the archdiocese received a 50 percent stake in royalties from continued sales of the 1936 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, two sequels to the novel, the Oscar-winning 1939 motion picture, and the vast merchandising associated with the movie.
Joseph Mitchell, one of two sons of author Margaret Mitchell’s brother, Stephens, died last October…
…Deacon Swope, president and chief executive officer of the Rubicon Group in Atlanta, which provides market-demand analysis to the travel industry, estimates that the 50 percent stake will bring in $100,000-$200,000 annually to the archdiocese for the next 20 years.
The archdiocese has created a corporation to manage the literary inheritance, and will use the same law firm Stephens Mitchell used for advice on safeguarding the work.
Does this now give the Archdiocese of Atlanta a sideline in “Gone With the Wind” plates, dolls and snow globes? Well, sort of, but no one in Atlanta is picking out dresses and music boxes, Deacon Swope explained: “Warner Bros. does the merchandising of these tangible items, but the archdiocese will participate in the revenue stream produced by those items. Warner’s has the expertise and experience to manage the decisions around what is produced and where it is sold.”
As for more sequels and possible adaptations: “The archdiocese owns 50 percent of the rights free and clear. The other 50 percent is held in trust for the benefit of the widow of Eugene Mitchell,” Joseph Mitchell’s brother.
“So currently the Eugene Mitchell Family Trust is our business partner,” Deacon Swope said. “We have formed a for-profit company that the archdiocese and the trust jointly own and we have assigned our rights to ‘Gone With the Wind’ to this company. Three archdiocese employees are on the board and … there are three from the trust side.