Imagine you could go back in time and buy stock in The Beatles in 1960 or 1961. A small investment would be worth a fortune today. Allan Williams had some Beatles stock back then. What he did with it made him the biggest loser in Beatles’ history even while being one of the most important people to the band.
Allan Williams became the biggest loser in Beatles history by walking away over £9
The Beatles made it big in England in early 1963 when “Please Please Me” (No. 2) and “From Me To You” (No. 1) became the first of many top-10 hits. A little more than a decade later, the band turned down a $250 million reunion offer. In just eight years, The Beatles rose to the pinnacle of international stardom, became musical trendsetters, and changed everything about pop music.
But Williams didn’t know that in 1961.
Back then, “there were 300 groups in Liverpool who were as good or better than The Beatles,” Williams told author Colin MacFarlane (via Scotland’s Daily Record). When the group returned from a Hamburg, Germany, residency in early 1961, they refused to pay Williams the £9 commission they owed him for the gig. The manager’s attempts to get the money — which translates to less than £200 in 2023 (or roughly $244 per a U.K. currency converter) — went nowhere. Williams let Brian Epstein take over the band, telling him “not to touch them with a f***** bargepole.”
“I still lose sleep over it 50 years later,” Williams said. “No one could have guessed The Beatles would become so famous.”
Williams couldn’t collect £9 and let Epstein take over The Beatles. The potential fortune he missed out on made him the biggest loser in the band’s history (with drummer Pete Best being a close second).
Brian Epstein was hardly a perfect manager when he took over for Williams
Epstein was far from a perfect manager.
He wasn’t the shrewdest businessman and negotiated some poor contracts for his band. The Beatles made $10,000 for their historic The Ed Sullivan Show debut on Feb. 9, 1964 (plus two other performances). Elvis Presley earned $50,000 for a three-show run nearly a decade earlier, according to his Graceland estate website.
Epstein allowed The Beatles to sign a lopsided contract with music publisher Dick James that wasn’t in the band’s favor. James and his partner controlled 50% of the band’s music, with the remaining 50% divided between Epstein, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. It was one of the major events in Beatles history that contributed to the band’s bitter split.
Still, with Epstein at the helm, they became the biggest band in the world. The manager was so integral to the group and so instrumental in their success that John once said going anywhere without him was like going somewhere without pants. Each member of the Fab Four enjoyed solo success after the band fractured. Paul and Ringo’s net worths suggest The Beatles overcame Epstein’s poor business sense in the long run.
Brian Epstein took four Liverpool lads from the basement of The Cavern to the top of the world. It could have been Allan Williams, but he became the biggest loser in Beatles history over £9.
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