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Permission Granted

October 17, 2003—The next time you see the big Hollywood sign, you may think of Jeremy Stephan. For four years, any use of the sign in any fashion required his authorization (and that of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce).

Hollywood

Jeremy Stephan

It’s one aspect of a career that includes managing the use of trademarks and copyrights for celebrity estates, licensing collectibles for the Olympics, and managing the promotion of products as disparate as Burns and Allen radio archives, OzFest, and environmental awareness through a children’s multimedia production.

“A lot of what I’m doing today I owe to Frank DeStefano,” said Stephan, a 1993 graduate of IUP with a degree in international business. “During my sophomore and junior years, he took me under his wing. I got involved in major events, the Entertainment Network, promotion of the concert series, musical events, and so on. That really gave me all of the underlying foundation for what I embarked on when I left school.”

An internship during his junior summer with the Deer Creek Music Center in Indianapolis (since renamed the Verizon Wireless Music Center) led to an offer of assistant general manager of that facility. After four years with Deer Creek, Stephan joined a sports agency that represented a number of NBA stars. He launched a licensing division for collectibles (keychains, mugs, etc.), negotiating trademark rights to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, all of the NBA teams, and the Olympics Committee. At the 1996 Atlanta games, he met the president of Aminco, a $40-million-a-year company that held exclusive license to all of the Olympic lapel pins worldwide.

“The second largest sport in the Olympics is actually pin trading and collecting,” said Stephan. “It’s unbelievably huge. When you’re at the Olympics, if you’re not watching the athletes on the field, then you’re probably trading pins.” A week before his twenty-seventh birthday, Stephan accepted the job in California of vice president of sales and operations at Aminco.

After two years, a friend from Indianapolis moved west to start a new entertainment licensing company called Global Icons. She offered him a position, and for the next four years, Stephan was not only responsible for managing the Hollywood sign but also the rights to the estates of Humphrey Bogart, the Three Stooges, Nat King Cole, Natalie Wood, and Judy Garland, among many others. 

His responsibilities included making sure the images, voices, and likenesses of these people were not used without permission and either to prevent their use or negotiate a mutually beneficial settlement agreement. He also proactively represented the late stars, assembling a marketing strategy around what their memory represented and what people remembered and presented the concepts to advertising agencies. One successful example resulted in a Heineken beer commercial featuring Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby singing a Christmas song together.

“It was really twofold,” said Stephan. “Making sure nobody is making money illegally off their image or name, and generating revenue for the owner of the estate or trust.”

Zippo promotion

Jeremy with October 2002 Playmate Teri Harrison at a Zippo promotion

Four years at Global Icons led to an itch to do more. “At thirty, I was getting growing pains inside from the frustration of not doing what I wanted,” Stephan said. “On September 30, 2001, I decided I had to do what I had to do for me, and I resigned from the company.” He spent a month in Mexico, piecing together what he could do with everything he had learned.

“I picked up the phone and started making some calls, trying to develop some business opportunities for me to live from one month to the next, and it ultimately developed into FUSE, the promotion agency I’ve developed over the past year and a half. FUSE is kind of an amalgamation of all the different experiences, skills, and relationships that I developed over the last ten years. Things are going extremely well, not well enough that I should become complacent, but good enough to know I’m going in the right direction.”

FUSE is currently on retainer to Radio Spirits, the largest old-time classic radio company in the country. Stephan is negotiating contracts to promote and repackage hundreds of old radio shows, from the Shadow to Burns and Allen, Bob Hope, and Abbott and Costello.  The career path taken by Jeremy Stephan includes not only creating FUSE but also managing product promotions for Zippo, run by Greg Booth ’71. (more…)

He also acquired the rights to a children’s property owned by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), the world’s largest scuba diving organization. PADI creates the rules and standards for diving on a worldwide basis and has developed a program to introduce children to diving. Stephan began taking scuba lessons about four years ago. While attending his first scuba diving trade show, he walked by the PADI booth. In the back was a poster introducing the PADI Seal Team Program for kids.

“I literally stopped in my tracks and stared at the poster,” said Stephan. “All of this started running through my mind, the long-term potential of what I saw.” What he saw were aspects to the concept that could be leveraged bigger and better than what PADI was doing. He pitched his ideas to the head of PADI marketing, and two years later Stephan is working with production companies and writers to develop the multimedia franchise now known as PADI Seal Team Kids. “Now the hard part, the fun part, begins,” he said. “If we have our way about it, it will become a feature film and an animated television series for kids. Not only is there the adventure of these Seal Team kids, but also the underlying story to it: the preservation of the marine environment.” 

Jeremy Stephan

Jeremy scuba diving 85' under water in Cozumel, Mexico

“My intention is to make an impact on a worldwide basis,” said Stephan. “There’s so much fun and enjoyment that I have in diving, there’s so much of an untapped experience…. When you get down there, it’s like something you’ve never experienced before in your life, and I want other people to feel that experience. Once you get under the water, there’s not a single thing in your mind other than where you are and what’s in front of you. It’s like everything else is just washed away.”

When he was offered the internship at Deer Creek, Stephan was asked how it was relevant to an international business major. “I said that entertainment is an international business. The performer is also associated with album sales, licensing, endorsement, and merchandising, and it’s becoming more and more a global business. So I combined what I did with Frank Destefano and IUP major events to justify working at Deer Creek.”

Since then, his work with the Olympic Committee, Aminco, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and foreign manufacturing facilities has taken him to countries around the world. “Anything I’ve ever done in my life, I never planned for,” said Stephan. “It just kind of happened that way, and what happened involved some of the experiences that I’d picked up in school and from my internship. And in a weird way, everything has fit together.”

The career path taken by Jeremy Stephan includes not only creating FUSE but also managing product promotions for Zippo, run by Greg Booth ’71. Select for more. 

To contact Jeremy Stephan, send an e-mail to  jeremy@fuse-la.com .

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