Edward Colton, Theatrical Lawyer Whose Dotted Line Became an Industry Standard, Dead at 97

Obituaries   Edward Colton, Theatrical Lawyer Whose Dotted Line Became an Industry Standard, Dead at 97 Edward Colton, a theatrical lawyer who helped create the standard limited partnership relationship between producers and money people in American theatre, died Feb. 27 at the age of 97, according to The New York Times.

Mr. Colton, an Australian native whose family moved to the U.S. when he was an infant, was given the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre in 1998. It was the reportedly the first Tony given to someone not directly involved in a production.

In the 1940s, according to the Times, Mr. Colton became one of the first theatrical lawyers to create formal limited partnership relationships between backers and producers. People outside the industry often think "investors" and "producers" are the same thing (and sometimes they are), but very often the producers are directly involved in aspects of the production, hiring and creative team ,while investors are passive backers.

His obituary in the Times explained the business of limited partnerships this way: "The backers are made limited partners in the venture, so that if it fails, their financial liability is restricted to the amount of their original investment, and they have a business loss to credit against ordinary income when tax time comes."

Mr. Colton was a 1927 graduate of New Jersey Law School and practiced for 65 years, representing major theatrical figures of the last century, including Harold Prince, Florenz Ziegfeld, David Belasco, Richard Rodgers, George Abbott, Tennessee Williams and others.

As a young lawyer, he apprenticed with Ziegfeld's lawyer before branching out on his own. Mr. Colton died at his home in Venice, FL, and is survived by his wife, Grace; their son, Michael; a stepson, Keith Kerrigan; and six grandchildren.