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ANNIE’S ANGST: When Annie Leibovitz used her photographs as collateral for a loan of more than $20 million last year, it was a sign the photographer’s finances were in disarray. The picture darkened Wednesday when the loan’s financier, Art Capital Group, filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Leibovitz and her studio in New York State Supreme Court accusing her of reneging on an agreement to sell the works to pay it back. According to the suit, in June 2008 Leibovitz entered a $22 million credit facility with the lender in order to pay off other creditors, using “every photographic image [she’d] ever taken”; intellectual property, and real estate assets as collateral. In December, Leibovitz and Art Capital agreed to up the credit line to $24 million and drop its interest rate by 275 basis points. In order to facilitate the larger loan and better rate, Leibovitz agreed to let the company sell the assets and collect commission.
But with the loan due Sept. 8, Art Capital is now charging that Leibovitz has told it she will not cooperate in the sale of her photographs or her homes. The Manhattan-based firm alleges Leibovitz has broken the sales agreement by refusing to let the company’s real estate brokers access her homes in the West Village and Rhinebeck, N.Y., in order to ready them for the market.
On Thursday, a spokesman for Leibovitz called the group’s claims “false and untrue” and said there had been tension and dispute between the parties throughout their relationship. “Annie is in the same shoes as many other people involved with Art Capital,” the spokesman said. “For now, her attention remains on her photography and on continuing to organize her finances.”
Art Capital is seeking a declaratory judgment that Leibovitz is in breach of the contract and a ruling that allows it to sell the assets.
— Matthew Lynch