Look out, Hollywood. The brother of late King of Cocaine Pablo Escobar, Roberto Escobar, is gunning for you. He wants money. Or else.
After sending a letter to Netflix demanding $1 billion for rights to the family's story, which he says is integral to its hit show Narcos, Roberto Escobar has been eyeing other depictions of his brother.
Narcos has played a key role in adding billions of dollars to the value of Netflix's stock price since the show debuted last year, Roberto Escobar's representatives have argued. But Narcos is really just the beginning of a quest to protect what they say are the exclusive rights to any stories or imagery involving Pablo Escobar.
Olof K. Gustafsson, chief executive officer of Escobar Inc. (the company through which Roberto Escobar registered successor-in-interest rights to the Escobar family name), says the firm is close to granting a license to a major Hollywood production about Pablo Escobar.
But some deals have fallen through, he says, because producers might think the kingpin's story is part of the public domain as a result of Narcos' allegedly unauthorized use of the tale.
“We lost a lot of money because we could not get these deals because Narcos was illegally released,” Gustafsson alleges.
Did we forget to mention that Roberto Escobar, author of the 2009 book The Accountant’s Story, was the bookkeeper for Pablo Escobar's Medellin cartel? In Narcos, the role is taken by a nonrelative, who offers evidence to U.S. agents. Not good.
“Maybe they thought it was OK to make a show about the No. 1 druglord in the world,” Gustafsson says. “Roberto was an accountant for the enterprise and head of the hit men. You're going up against these guys? That's not very smart. Nobody wants to go up against these forces.”
The Escobar Inc. CEO says that, at its peak, Pablo Escobar's cartel was generating “$2 [billion] to $3 billion a week in gross revenue.”
“For them [Netflix] not to pay anything to the family and for them to defame us when we own the rights — that's not how we do business,” Gustafsson says.
Pablo Escobar was fatally shot by Colombian police in 1993. The same year, Roberto Escobar was imprisoned for his role in the family business. A letter bomb sent to him behind bars made him “half-blind and half-deaf,” according to a statement from Escobar Inc., which he founded in 2014.
In addition to being the crux of the Netflix show, the Escobar saga also is a subplot in HBO's Mark Wahlberg–produced Entourage — centering on a fictional movie, Medellin, about Pablo Escobar.
“No comment to Mark Wahlberg or his production company,” Gustafsson says. “But it is something we have been looking into for two years. Mark should be very well aware of us.”
Gustafsson says that Entourage character Billy Walsh “has an unauthorized Pablo Escobar tattoo on his back,” at least on the show.
These people mean business.