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A version of this story originally appeared in the Rambling Reporter column of the June 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.
People is suffering some baby blues after paying $850,000 for pictures of Jessica Simpson, her fiancé Eric Johnson and their newborn daughter Maxwell Drew for its latest issue. The ploy got quite a bit of media buzz, but THR has learned that it only sold a paltry 950,000 copies – a good bit under its average of 1.3 million a week.
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While still pregnant, Simpson posed topless (in an homage to Demi Moore’s famous Vanity Fair cover) for Elle and launched a maternity line under her massively successful Jessica Simpson Collection through its master licensee, the Camuto Group.
People, which did not reply to requests for comment, has a history of betting large sums on celebrity baby photos, with varied results. Perhaps the most famous was a reported $4.1 million buy, in 2006, of exclusive North American rights to shots of Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, the first biological child of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Its website set a single-day traffic record of 26.5 million page views when they were published. It was followed two years later by a reported $14 million purchase of the first published snaps of their twins Vivienne and Knox.
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In the People story, Simpson observes of her daughter, born May 1: “My life has completely changed. From how I sleep to what I think about, Maxwell has definitely taken over everything. We stare at her all the time. We can’t get enough!”
Although the business transaction doesn’t appear to have been a favorable one for People, it’s a tidy sum to add to Simpson’s financial ledger. Her team has been responsible for a variety of remunerative deals, including, most notably, the Camuto Group association. Forbes estimated that it yielded $20 million for her in 2010 sales alone. She currently appears on NBC’s Fashion Star, which has been renewed for a second season.
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