Los Angeles A new era is beginning in the career of Frank Sinatra even if the Chairman of the Board isn't here to participate.
The iconic singer died May 14, 1998, and the 10th anniversary is being marked with a flurry of activity, including a new U.S. postage stamp with his likeness, CD and DVD collections, a major revival of his films on television and high-profile media appearances by his children.
This surge in all things Sinatra is more than a fleeting commemoration - it's more like the beginning of a corporate brand roll-out.
Late last year, the Sinatra heirs signed a pact with Warner Music Group Corp. that will bring Ol' Blue Eyes back in a big way, not just as a digitally resurrected entertainer but also as an advertising pitchman and, potentially, the name on the marquee of a feature film, a Broadway show and a casino and resort.
What Sinatra offers to any venture is that most elusive of auras: eternal cool. Like Elvis Presley, James Dean or Marilyn Monroe, Sinatra's image has compass-point clarity in pop culture despite the passage of time.
"There's a famous old saying that 'It's Frank Sinatra's world; we just live in it,' and that's kind of how we feel around here now," said Jimmy Edwards, one of the executives at Warner's Rhino Records who will be leading the day-to-day operations of Frank Sinatra Enterprises LLC.
The venture, funded and operated by Warner, has two major advertising deals in place and is close on two others. Dozens of other overtures have been turned down. Edwards and fellow executive Gregg Goldman declined to say what products will soon have Sinatra as an expensive salesman, but Goldman said the accounts speak to Sinatra's passions, "gaming, fine dining, the finest apparel and luxury."
"There is a lot of interest, and the hard part is deciding what is right and what is wrong," Tina Sinatra, the singer's younger daughter and the heir most involved in the estate's day-to-day enterprises.
Sitting in her office in Los Angeles, Tina Sinatra was enthusiastic about discussions of a Sinatra film directed by Martin Scorsese - "He's really the only one to do it, isn't he?" - but less certain about the proposals that would put her father's name on the front of a menu.
"I've dragged my feet about a restaurant," the 59-year-old said.
Tina Sinatra and attorney Robert A. Finkelstein have been the family's main gatekeepers on licensing matters since the 1980s, when her father was still touring. But the job became too large and complicated for a small-team approach.
Family, board divisions
Tina Sinatra and Finkelstein represent the two family votes on the board of Frank Sinatra Enterprises. Warner has two also: company Chairman and Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. and Scott Pascucci, president of Warner's Rhino Entertainment, a brand known for meticulous archival collections and a safari-like approach to music history. A fifth, tie-breaking vote is held by former Capitol Records President Hale Milgrim.
The Sinatra family has some considerable divisions. Tina has feuded with her father's fourth and final wife, Barbara.
Frank Sinatra left control of his estate's business to his children - Nancy, Frank Jr. and Tina, all from his first marriage. The children are not completely on the same page, either. Nancy Sinatra, 67, is against a feature film. She fears it would dwell on the negative and ugly moments of her father's complicated life.
Frank Sinatra Jr., meanwhile, is busy touring and performing with the songbook and arrangements he inherited from his father. The 64-year-old growled a bit when asked about a feature film or a casino.
"I'm not party to all those decisions, not like I would like," he said. "That's the way it came down."
Nancy Sinatra said that the voice of her father has never really gone away and that the fascination with it represents curiosity about the American journey.
"He went from megaphones to fiber optics, and he was the biggest star all the way," she said. "No one else has done that."