The very first managment ontract signed by The Beatles on Jan. 24, 1962, sold for $347,875 at a Sotheby’s auction this week in a sale benefitting the Ernest Hecht Charitable Foundation, according to BBC News.
The document was signed by principal members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and original drummer Pete Best for the services of manager Brian Epstein.
The contract guaranteed Epstein — who died of a drug overdose in Aug. 1967 — a 10% fee that would rise to 15% if the band’s income exceeded $150 a week; McCartney had negotiated the fee down from 20%. “This contract was a transformative document not only for The Beatles, but also for the 1960s and popular culture of the time,” said Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts specialist Gabriel Heaton in a statement before this week’s auction. “We feel extremely privileged to be offering such a significant piece of history, a document that set the band on a path that brought them a level of success and cultural influence that was surely beyond their dreams when they put pen to paper to entrust their future together to Brian Epstein on that January day in 1962.”
Epstein discovered the band when they were performing at Liverpool’s Cavern Club on Nov. 9, 1961, at which point the then record shop owner/music writer was determined to work with the group. Epstein, who had no prior management experience before pitching his services to the then-unknown foursome, did not actually sign the final document, which, Sotheby’s noted, meant he was bound to the Beatles, but they were not obligated to work with him.
In his 1964 autobiography, A Cellarful of Noise, Epstein explained, “It was because even though I knew I would keep the contract in every clause, I had not 100 per cent faith in myself to help the Beatles adequately. In other words, I wanted to free the Beatles of their obligations if I felt they would be better off.”
McCartney, Harrison and Best were under 21 at the time of the signing in Epstein’s office at his NEMS record shop in Whitechapel, so they had their fathers summoned to co-sign the document.