PRODUCTION: PUT THIS COPY IN THE "INSIDE" BOX WITHIN THE STORY:
After signing Roseanne and Oprah, King World's stock is on a steep upward curve.
By FRANK SWERTLOW
Hollywood is no stranger to unusual and lavish perks. But a peek at Roseanne's deal with King World Productions reveals special travel arrangements that might make a Fortune 500 CEO green with envy.
Roseanne, whose much-anticipated talk show for King World will debut in September, must be supplied with "a charter jet airplane, G2 or better," whenever New York-based King World requests the star to travel 50 miles or more from her Brentwood home, according to company filings.
King World leases a Gulfstream IV or G4 which is considered the world's premiere aircraft and would be at Roseanne's disposal. But what if other King World VIPs, such as Oprah Winfrey, happen to be using the G4 on a Roseanne travel day? Then the company would have to come up with at least a G2.
She doesn't have to travel alone, either. According to the filings, Roseanne can bring an entourage that includes her husband, Ben Thomas (her former chauffeur/bodyguard), and as many as four other companions on the flight. The group will be afforded "first-class" accommodations, the filing states.
"This is done when she is going on business for us," said King World President Jules Haimowitz. "When was the last time you saw Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis flying first class on a commercial jet? Roseanne is a big TV star."
Jessica Reif Cohen, media analyst for Merrill Lynch & Co. in New York, said such a perk is "unusual."
When Roseanne travels on her own, it's at her own expense and usually on a Gulfstream II, in which she owns a "time share," according to an associate. The sit-com star never flies on commercial airliners, the associate said.
Roseanne's travel perks pale, however, next to the stock option component of her deal with King World.
According to the filings, she has options to purchase up to 100,000 shares of King World at a price that coincides with the market price in May 1997, when her contract went into effect.
The stock at that time was trading in the mid-$30 range, and as of last week (Jan. 5) it had risen to $56.94. So her options would be worth about $2 million as of last week, though she is not allowed to exercise them until Sept. 7, 1999, a date that would approximate the beginning of the second year of her talk show.
The King World filings do not reveal Roseanne's salary for the show or any other financial incentives.
But even a multimillion-dollar package would not be out of line, given that the show is guaranteed to have at least a two-year run.
One source familiar with the deal, who asked to remain anonymous, said King World has a committed revenue stream of $100 million over its upcoming two-year run.
Roseanne's TV appearances won't be limited to her talk show, either. She is also contractually obligated to make an unspecified number of guest appearances on King World's new version of "Hollywood Squares."
She will not, however, be seated in the key center square, according to the filings. One star who reportedly is being considered for that slot is comic Chris Rock.
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