Just about every lawsuit has an element of bitterness or betrayal, but there’s nothing like a trusts and estates fight to really drive it home.
The latest: Tom Petty’s daughters on Wednesday sued the deceased rocker’s widow, Dana York Petty, for $5 million, claiming self-dealing, theft, and gross mismanagement of his estate.
They’re represented by Venable’s Alex Weingarten (who last week filed a suit on behalf of Brooke Shields against a cosmetics maker and several high-end retailers for selling an unauthorized eyebrow pencil, the “Brooke S.”)
Petty’s daughters, Adria Robin Petty and Annakim Violette, claim that their father entrusted them along with their step-mother to manage his estate after his death, “with clear instructions that they participate equally in the management,” according to the complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
“Regrettably, Dana has refused her late husband’s instructions and insisted upon competing against plaintiff and misappropriating its business opportunities and assets, all the while continuing to ostensibly serve as a manager of plaintiff.”
It’s the latest move in an ongoing fight over Petty’s estate—namely his song catalog.
The singer died in October 2017 at age 66 of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs including Fentanyl, oxycodone and generic Xanax. He had recently finished a 53-date tour, and his family said he was in pain from a broken hip.
In April, York Petty filed a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court asking the court to approve the creation of a professionally managed business entity to hold Petty’s artistic property. She and her step-daughters disagreed over who to hire to run it.
A key point of contention: the provision in the trust that Petty’s widow and daughters have “equal participation in management.”
To the daughters, that means they each get a vote—which would give them a two-thirds majority.
But York Petty argues she is “certain that Tom did not intend that ‘equal participation in management’ meant empowering Adria and Annakim to join together to disenfranchise petitioner, Tom’s widow.”
York Petty is represented by Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton’s Adam Streisand, who previously represented the widow of The North Face co-founder Douglas Tompkins in a successful fight with her step-daughter over control of Tompkins’ estate.
In an email, Streisand called the suit by Petty’s daughters “misguided and meritless.”
He continued, “Tom Petty’s trust gives his wife Dana sole authority to form a company that will manage his intellectual property once the estate is ready for distribution. Though not required, Dana nevertheless bent over backwards to include the daughters in the process of forming the company.
“When the daughters proved impossible to deal with and were seriously damaging all of Tom’s professional relationships, Dana asked for the court’s assistance. She’s now being sued with ridiculous and false charges when in fact all that has happened is Dana has asked the court to make the determination about the structure of this company.”
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