SAN FRANCISCO — The family of W. Mark Felt, the former FBI deputy director whose alter ego as Deep Throat has been revealed, appears ready to cash in on his newfound fame.
And if money is what they want, Felt’s family stands to reap a huge financial windfall, according to literary agents, who estimated Wednesday that a book deal could be worth up to $1 million.
“That is assuming he has a compelling story to tell,” said Glen Hartley, president of Writer’s Representatives LLC, based out of New York. “A book could easily be valued in the six figures.”
As news broke that Felt was indeed the secret source who guided two young Washington Post reporters as they uncovered the Watergate scandal, Felt’s family offered to sell family photographs — the first in an apparent flood of money-making opportunities.
Felt’s role in the scandal, which forced the resignation of then-President Nixon, surfaced in an article written for Vanity Fair by a family friend, San Francisco attorney John O’Connor.
He wrote that Felt’s daughter Joan, who persuaded her 91-year-old father to go public as “Deep Throat,” lamented that the Post’s Bob Woodward would get all the credit — and profit — if Felt went to the grave with his secret.
‘Let's do it for the family’
“We could make at least enough money to pay some bills like the debt I’ve run up for the kids’ education,” she told Felt, according to the article. “Let’s do it for the family.”
Vanity Fair said the Felts were not paid for the article, and Felt’s grandson, Nick Jones, said Tuesday that the family has yet to decide how to proceed. Nobody answered the phone Wednesday at Joan Felt’s home, where she cares for her father.
“All The President’s Men,” the 1974 book by Woodward and Carl Bernstein about the scandal, ranked as the 43th best-selling title Wednesday afternoon on Amazon.com, up from about 400th the night before. Requests for the Oscar-winning 1976 movie jumped twelvefold on Netflix, the online DVD rental service.
O’Connor didn’t respond Wednesday to a request from The Associated Press for comment, but he told The Wall Street Journal that he’s fielding numerous book and movie offers.
What quality of story?
Questions remain about what kind of a story Felt can tell today. He suffered a stroke in 2001 and has been in declining health since.
Felt appeared frail when he shuffled to the doorway of his daughter’s house Tuesday to give photographers a brief opportunity to take his picture. His family refused all questions, fueling speculation about how his age has affected his awareness and memory.
Before Felt’s story can be sold, the family must show publishers or filmmakers that he has a compelling and accurate story to tell, said Peter Osnos, chief executive of the publishing company PublicAffairs and a former Post reporter.
“The big issue is, did Felt keep notes or a diary?” Osnos said. “Did he tell anybody or record anything in advance? The impression that you have now is a very old and frail man. If there is no written record, what you may have is the family scrambling around looking for something to say.”
Felt vs. Woodward?
Felt’s family also may have to compete with Woodward, who is likely working on his own “Deep Throat” book, Osnos suspects. “We have to assume that Woodward has finished or is close to finishing his own book,” said Osnos, who worked alongside Woodward at the Post for 18 years.
Osnos also sees nothing wrong with Felt’s family trying to sell his story.
“There’s no reason why they shouldn’t,” Osnos said. “This isn’t Amber Frey, who fell into a situation and then try to capitalize on it. This was a guy who really was an historic figure. This is the last great mystery of the Watergate era. It’s a big story about a big story.”
Without Woodward and Bernstein’s cooperation, Felt’s family won’t likely have access to their notes, which the pair sold for $5 million to the University of Texas two years ago. At the time, they said documents naming Deep Throat would be kept secure at an undisclosed Washington location until the source’s death.
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