Widow of Winnie the Pooh promoter dies at 84

LOS ANGELES, July 19 (Reuters) - The widow of the literary agent who helped popularize Winnie the Pooh in the United States and Canada -- who was engaged in a long legal battle against the Walt Disney Co over royalties -- has died.

Shirley Slesinger Laswell, who was 84, died on Thursday in Beverly Hills after a long illness, a family spokesman said.

Her first husband, publicist and illustrator Stephen Slesinger, bought the U.S. and Canadian rights to Winnie the Pooh, written by British author A.A. Milne, in the early 1930s.

Slesinger died in 1953, leaving control of his licensing business to his wife, who went on to design and develop a line of Pooh products.

The Slesinger and Milne families passed those rights to Disney in 1961 in exchange for a percentage of revenues from Pooh products.

In 1991, Laswell sued Disney in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming the media company had underreported Pooh sales and owed her hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties.

A trial judge dismissed the case in 2004. A state appellate court is considering whether to reinstate it.

Laswell is survived by her daughter, Pati Slesinger, son-in-law David Bentson, and granddaughter Kristina.