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Poirot takes a stab at merchandising

PORCELAIN models of Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple detective games and jigsaws with scenes from Murder On The Orient Express will soon be on the market following the sale yesterday of a controlling stake in Agatha Christie to the entertainment and leisure group Chorion.

Virtually no merchandising of the Queen of Crime has ever taken place. But that will now change dramatically, David Lane, director of Chorion, said last night.

His company acquired a 64 per cent share in Agatha Christie from Booker for pounds 10m. The remaining 36 per cent will continue to be owned by members of the Agatha Christie family and family trusts.

Mathew Prichard, the writer's grandson, will remain chairman of the company, which owns the copyright of virtually all of Christie's works.

Chorion already has ownership rights to the works and merchandise exploitation of Enid Blyton, and in the last year earned pounds 750,000 from such items as clothes and children's lunchboxes, and even Noddy chopsticks in Japan. The company also owns a number of nightclubs and operates the Pepsi Imax cinema in the Trocadero entertainment complex in the capital.

Chorion, formerly know as Trocadero, transformed itself as a leisure and entertainment group last September when it sold the Trocadero complex to Burford Holdings.

Mr Lane said: "With Agatha Christie something needs to be done in terms of brand awareness.I envisage jigsaws with scenes from the feature films, detective games, activity books for children with treasure hunts and mystery solving."