‘White’ collar job

3 Warner divisions team to buy Fitch novel

In a rare instance of true corporate fellowship (aka, synergy), Warner Bros., Time Warner Trade Publications and Warner-based John Wells Prods. have pooled their funds to jointly acquire the feature rights to Janet Fitch’s current novel, “White Oleander.”

Together, the trio paid an estimated $1 million for the novel, which, continuing in the synergistic vein, was officially published Thursday by Time Warner-owned Little, Brown and premiered as the latest Book Club selection on Oprah Winfrey’s syndicated chat show. (Winfrey also has committed to voice the audio version of the novel.)

Teenager’s journey

Fitch’s debut novel is narrated by a teenager, Astrid Magnussen, whose uncompromising, beautiful mother is given a life sentence in prison after killing a boyfriend who tried to abandon her. Astrid then learns survival techniques as she spends six years bouncing around Los Angeles from one foster home to another, each with its own pitfalls and opportunities.

Though her mother still tries to control her from the big house, Astrid, despite the odds, gradually blossoms into a self-assured, independent young woman who gains some control over their relationship.

John Wells will produce the project, which will now become an open writing assignment.

Warners exec VP Kevin McCormick brought the project into the studio and will supervise its development.

Rare case

While the film divisions of major media conglomerates have laid out money to cover publishing costs for novelizations or tie-ins of their films, “White Oleander” is a rare case of a publisher, who already owns the rights to the book, teaming with its studio sister on a film deal.

McCormick has tread similar ground in the past. At his former shop, Fox 2000, the exec oversaw a slightly different deal when News Corp.-owned HarperCollins teamed with Fox to concurrently acquire publishing and film rights to Peter Maas’s “Underboss.”

Warner Bros. production prexy Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Time Warner Publishing chairman Larry Kirshbaum made the deal for their respective divisions.