Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

News > International
Harry Potter and the Big Wad of Cash
The new book's ending revealed: a whole lot of money. (Were you surprised?)
June 20, 2003: 6:33 PM EDT
By Gordon T. Anderson, CNN/Money Contributing Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Is there a person in the developed world who does not know the story of the once-impoverished Scottish author J.K. Rowling and her billion-dollar creation?

The story of how a single mom, living on the dole, invented a young wizard who quickly became the most beloved literary character in history? While all that may still seem improbable in retrospect, the next part of this oft-told tale is a bit more predictable.

The Harry Potter stock
Scholastic could run higher on the latest Potter book, but that doesn't mean investors should buy. »»
What every Potterhead needs
Rowling sues over news leak
What's next for Potter films?
Potter currency converter
Harry Potter & the Big Wad o' Cash

As "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" goes on sale at midnight Friday, the world is already assured that a good percentage of the book's record-setting hardcover print run will be sold.

Ms. Rowling's formidable net worth will expand from its current $400 million or so. And companies large and small will angle for a cut of the take from the magical, moneymaking franchise.

Broadly speaking, the business of Harry Potter can be divided into three main categories, each of which has its own offshoots. Publishing and movies are the most important by far, with licensing revenues a distant but still-healthy third.

Here is a look at the Empire of Hogwarts, divided by category.


Since the 1997 publication of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," the four books in the series have been translated into 55 different languages, and sold more than 200 million copies worldwide. It has created a windfall for publishers around the globe, especially Britain's Bloomsbury (BMY) and Scholastic (SCHL: Research, Estimates) in the United States.

graphic graphic graphic
CNN's Deborah Feyerick reports on the tight security surrounding the release of the fifth Harry Potter book.

Play video
(Real or Windows Media)

When the fourth book, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," was published in the summer of 2000, it sold 5.1 million copies during its first weekend in release. That made it the fastest-selling novel in history.

In fact, according to Rowling's U.K.-based literary agent, first-weekend buyers snatched up 96 percent of the initial print run for "Goblet." This time, the publishers have upped the ante: an estimated 8.5 million copies are being put out in the United States alone.

Many of them are already spoken for: (AMZN: Research, Estimates) announced it had pre-sold more than 1 million copies, a number that rival Barnes & Noble also expects to exceed.

"We expect this will be the best-selling book in our history," says Carolyn Murphy, a spokesperson for Barnes & Noble (BKS: Research, Estimates). "It's unprecedented."

She notes that most of the chain's stores will stay open past midnight on Friday, "for as long as it takes until every customer in the store has their book." There will also be hoopla galore: from magic shows to a celebrity reading by Molly Ringwald (at the Lincoln Center store in New York City).

Just in case all that isn't enough, Scholastic will spend as much as $4 million on a marketing campaign for "Phoenix," more than twice what it spent to hype "Goblet." (Given the quantity of free publicity the book's release has garnered, one wonders what media there is left to buy.)


Two feature films have been released so far, by Warner Bros., owned by AOL/Time Warner, (AOL: Research, Estimates) which also owns CNN/Money. Together, the movies have taken in about $1.8 billion worldwide at the box office.

With some $1 billion in ticket sales, the first movie, "Sorcerer's Stone" (2001), is the No. 2 all-time grossing movie, eclipsed only by "Titanic."

The second film, "Chamber of Secrets," released last year, comes in at No. 6.

The third movie, starring a teen-age Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, is currently being made with an expected release in the summer of 2004.


In 1998, Rowling sold worldwide licensing rights to Warner for about $500,000 (a price now considered insanely low), although she does receive unspecified royalties based on licensing revenues. For example, she gets an estimated $1 to $1.50 for each Harry video game that is sold.

About 75 products have been licensed so far. Hard as it is to believe, that's not so many for a brand of this visibility, part of a strategy by Warner to sell a modest number of licenses for a massive number of dollars.

Items for sale range from Mattel's (MAT: Research, Estimates) Harry Potter action figures, to Lego's Hogwarts-themed building toys, to Jelly Belly Candy's earwax-flavored jelly beans (to understand that, read the book).

Video game maker Electronic Arts (ERTS: Research, Estimates) has produced two Harry Potter games thus far, selling more than 10 million copies combined. "Harry Potter was our most successful launch title ever," said CEO Larry Probst. That's no small statement for a company that owns the Sims franchise and also publishes the hugely popular Madden NFL games.

Click here for tips on collecting Potter

Last month Electronic Arts announced it has developed a digital version of Quidditch, the airborne polo played by Harry and his schoolmates. Quidditch World Cup is due on the shelves in October.  Top of page

  More on NEWS
This company could power the world for 65 billion years
Hillary Clinton does Trump impression on 'SNL'
LinkedIn to pay $13 million for unwanted emails, lawyers could get $3.3 million
Musk: Solve energy or face economic collapse
Remember Smarties? The retro candy is thriving
Hillary Clinton does Trump impression on 'SNL'

graphic graphic