As witnessed in various threads on this and other sites, there are as many opinions on the completion hurdles faced by TOSOTW as there are sources to voice them: ownership issues, artistic control issues, money issues, cinematic techniques that have lost their innovative edge, lingering prejudices, distribution concerns, etc. About the only culprit I haven't seen named yet is the ghost of William Randolph Hearst; but let's not rule him out, either.
One that I have speculated about in the past is the possibility that, for virtually no additional investment, a "good enough" living can already be made by some from holding forth on an enticingly unfinished film and its tantalizing clips. Why mess with that formula, especially if it's going to cost millions to do so and leave you answerable for a finite product that's almost certain to alienate at least some of its target audience (and potential lecture attendees) along with their idealized hopes? However, I have been assured by several here, a number of whom have had the privilege of meeting those involved, that the key people in question are effectively immune to such misgivings and that they likely have far more to gain by seeing the project through. I respectfully defer, therefore, to their more informed and more optimistic outlooks.
Nevertheless, the above does play on my mind from time to time as yet another of the possible de-motivators with which a serious completion project might have to contend, the kind that an especially alluring set of commercial prospects would certainly help de-fuse. So, to the extent that all the Welles-related events and enthusiasm we see about us nowadays might be bolstering those prospects, I can only cheer them on all the more.
As to who might own the rights, last I read it could still be a bit of a hornet's nest. Welles himself was rather fond of citing the family of the brother-in-law of the late Shah of Iran as one interested party, perhaps as much for the colour it added to the tale as anything else. Others have suggested that Welles might have pulled a Max Bialystock (a la Mel Brooks' "The Producers"
) and sold well more than 100% of the film to a disjointed bunch of financial backers thereby throwing the whole rights ownership issue as wide open as it could possibly be.
Apparently more recent comments coming from the Kodar/Graver/Bogdanovich camps suggest that these and other potential claims have been largely sorted out and all that's needed now is enough cash. I'd like to hope it's really all that simple.