AO News Summary: Agreement reached between Annie Leibovitz and Art Capital Group

September 14th, 2009


Annie Leibovitz during a photoshoot earlier this year. Via The New York Times

On Friday, September 11, The New York Times reported that the photographer Annie Leibovitz and her creditor, Art Capital Group reached an agreement to restructure the photographer’s finances and reconsider how much more time she had to repay a $24 million loan. Leibovitz’s financial struggles became apparent early this year when news broke that she had used real estate and the rights to all of her photographs as collateral for the loan.

Related Links
Agreement Reached on a Reprieve for Leibovitz Loan Repayment [NYTimes]
Understanding the Leibovitz Loan [ArtMarketMonitor.com]
Annie Leibovitz buys back copyright to her photos [The Associated Press]
Photographer Leibovitz could lose portfolio due to debt [CNN.com]
Annie Leibovitz as Everywoman [San Francisco Chronicle]
Annie Leibovitz avoids bankruptcy [Telegraph.co.uk]
Road to Recovery [Vogue.com]
Leibovitz buys back control of Photos, Real Estate
[Bloomberg]
Art Capital Group sues Annie Leibovitz to collect on $24million loan [ArtObserved]

Photo
John Lennon and Yoko Ono by Annie Leibovitz (January 22, 1981). Via Rolling Stone

The battle began on July 29, 2009 when ACG sued Leibovitz over thousands of dollars she owed them in past-due fees as well as her refusal to cooperate in their attempts to sell parts of her archive to aid in repaying the loan. Art Capital’s suit alleged Leibovitz had breached her contract which gave the group exclusive rights to sell her work.

This had been an unconventional contract from the onset; one against two kinds of assets that are notoriously difficult to dispose of – real estate and intellectual property. As Montieth Illingworth, ACG’s spokesman stated recently:

“We based the loan on an appraisal of the potential value of her photographic archive which is really a form of intellectual property….. This is the first deal we know of that monetized intellectual property based solely on a valuation model with the prospect of commercialization for the owner that could generate tens, even hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue.”


Ian Peck (left) and Baird Ryan of Art Capital Group. Via New York Magazine

It has also been noted in the press that Goldman Sachs, currently receiving a good amount of press for specifically managing its image,   were one of the chief financiers of the Art Capital Group loan to Leibovitz. Early in the proceedings Goldman-Sachs were quick to announce no involvement in the aforementioned sales agreement dispute, however there was a sense of siding with Lebovitz that became explicit when they stated, “We are deeply troubled by recent developments concerning Annie Leibovitz and Art Capital….We have proposed to Art Capital that we terminate the current loan agreement with their affiliate so that we can work directly with Ms. Leibovitz to help her resolve her financing needs.”

On Friday it was announced that the suit filed by ACG against Leibovitz in July had been withdrawn and that an agreement had been reached to extend the maturity date for the loan, originally September 8, 2009.  The new deadline has not been specified.  It has also been revealed that while Leibovitz has bought back the rights to sell her homes and the copyrights to her work, if she does not pay back the $24 million, Art Capital Group could still foreclose and sell her photographs as well as her homes in Manhattan and Rhineback, NY.

Leibovitz townhouse
Leibovitz’s Townhouse in Manhattan. Via ArtMarketMonitor.com

Just as it seemed Lebovitz was to enjoy a short break from escalating financial and legal worries, news broke on Tuesday September 8 that Paolo Pizzett, an Italian photographer and former assistant to Leibovitz, was suing her for allegedly stealing his work and passing it off as her own.

While it seems that Leibovitz has been granted some lenience from ACG to gather herself and reassess her financial plannings, it is clear the rights to her photographs and homes still hang in the balance.  After what has been sold in the press as a bit of duel, both parties have released harmonious statements in response to the settlement;

Leibovitz stated; “In these challenging times I am appreciative to Art Capital for all they have done to resolve this matter and for their cooperation and continued support. I also want to thank my family, friends, and colleagues for being there for me and look forward to concentrating on my work.”

Ian Peck, chief executive officer of Art Capital Group, has said: “We’re gratified to be able to further assist Ms. Leibovitz to achieve financial stability and proud to have been of such value to her at this juncture in her life and career.”