Knut the Polar Bear Leaves Behind a $140 Million Business

So Knut the polar bear, recently deceased denizen at the Berlin Zoo, supposedly leaves behind a $140 million business.

And I’ll bet he never went to business school.

Knut was born at the zoo in December 2006 and was hand-raised by zookeepers when his mother abandoned him. He quickly became a media star, the public falling in love with his overwhelming cuteness as a cub. He died just this last March from what turned out to be viral encephalitis, or an infection of the brain. He was only four years old (polar bears often live 30 years in captivity).

The 167 year-old Berlin Zoo, listed on the German stock exchange, is a for-profit business and during the few short years that Knut was a star attraction, the zoo took in some $30 million in tickets and other revenue. In fact, Gerald Uhlich, former chief executive of the zoo who helped create the Brand of Knut, judges that Knut the polar bear generated more than $140 million in worldwide business.

The zoo tried to license the Knut brand only to environmentally-sensitive organizations and to help promote awareness of global warming, but Uhlich encouraged the zoo to do more to profit from the home-grown bear. The zoo is reportedly reluctant to do so and Knut the brand may follow Knut the polar bear into the hereafter.

Aside from profiting from a live (or dead, for that matter) bear, the controversy brings up the role of zoos in modern society. Should the Berlin zoo be profiting from Knut the polar bear in death or life? Certainly profits from the brand help the zoo become less dependent on funding from the city of Berlin, its chief benefactor. But does such huge profitability potentially corrupt a zoo’s mission of conservation and education?

What do you think? Should Knut the polar bear be promoted in the afterlife? Leave your comments below.