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Beatles first contract for sale in London

Brian Epstein's copy of his management contract with The Beatles, a pact that proved to be worth millions, is being offered for sale in London next month.

The four-page document, signed on 1 October 1962 by John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Richard Starkey — Ringo Starr's real name — carries an estimated price of £250,000. The Fame Bureau auction house said Tuesday it had scheduled the sale for 4 September at the Idea Generation Gallery.

The contract, also signed by Harold Hargreaves Harrison and James McCartney on behalf of their underage sons, gave Epstein a 25 per cent cut of the group's earnings, provided that they made more than £200 each per week.

"The word is that he made more money than the Beatles did during his period of time," said Ted Owen, managing director of The Fame Bureau.

He said the contract was offered for sale by a northern England businessman and Beatles collector who has asked to remain anonymous.

The contract marked the moment when all the pieces were in place for a global outbreak of Beatlemania.

Epstein first heard of The Beatles when a customer went to his record store in Liverpool asking for "My Bonnie," in which the group backed singer Tony Sheridan.

After arranging to hear the group perform at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, Epstein was impressed.

"They were fresh, honest and had, what I thought, a sort of presence and star quality, whatever that is," Epstein later recalled.

Epstein had been guiding the group since December 1961, and had secured a recording contract with EMI. With a nudge from producer George Martin, Epstein fired drummer Pete Best in August 1962 and brought Starr into the group, and their first big hit, "Love Me Do," was ready for release.

"Brian put us in suits and all that and we made it very, very big," Lennon once said. "But we sold out, you know.

"We were in a daydream till he came along. We had no idea what we were doing."

Epstein died from a drug overdose in 1967, aged 32.

According to the Brian Epstein Web site, brianepstein.com, a first, five-year contract was signed by the group on 24 January 1962, but Epstein didn't sign it.

Epstein managed several other successful acts from Liverpool, including Gerry & The Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, and Cilla Black.

Also up for auction is a Bechstein grand piano which can be heard on The Beatles' "White Album" and "Hey Jude," and also on David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust," "Space Oddity" and "Hunky Dory," and Elton John's "Yellow Brick Road."

Owen estimated that the piano will sell for £300,000 or more.