The Tom Petty estate has revealed that it’s “pursuing swift legal action” over the auction of allegedly “outright stolen” memorabilia.
Tom Petty’s official Twitter account just recently posted a lengthy message about the legal action and the estate’s qualms with the involved auction house, Boston’s RR Auction. (When contacted by DMN, RR provided a statement and drove home in a follow-up email that it “does not own the items” in question, but instead represents “the consignor.”) At present, RR is accepting bids on all manner of apparel that’s said to have belonged to the “I Won’t Back Down” vocalist, songwriter, and producer.
Among the items featured in the 45 listings at hand are “Tom Petty’s MTV Duffle Bag” (which has been bid up to $569), “Tom Petty’s Beaded Moccasins” (with a $200 leading bid), and “Tom Petty’s Colorful Burmese Hat with Elephants and Flowers” (an $847 leading bid). Also included are t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, vests, shoes, boots, scarves, and guitar straps.
According to RR’s website, the items’ relatively straightforward path to auction can be traced to Petty’s 1996 divorce with his first wife, Jane Benyo, who’s said to have acquired their longtime Encino home (ostensibly including its contents) as part of the corresponding settlement. But Benyo is said to have lost the home to foreclosure in 2015, and the bank then enlisted contractors to clear out the house in preparation for a sale, per RR’s description.
“In February 2023, our consignor purchased these items that the bank discarded,” RR explained of the memorabilia’s journey to auction. “Several of the items have been photo matched, including Tom Petty’s famous black and white striped jacket, several t-shirts, a Greenpeace sweatshirt, and a black cap seen in photos and worn during an appearance on Molly Meldrum’s Australian TV show.”
But as initially mentioned, the Tom Petty estate – which previously grappled with a high-profile legal battle between the singer-songwriter’s widow and daughters – is emphasizing in no uncertain terms its opposition to the auction.
“The family of Tom Petty is pursuing swift legal action against RR Auction house,” the estate wrote in part. “The house has announced a current auction of personal property of Petty’s that the entire family firmly believes has been outright stolen from a secured archive based on prior knowledge, staff observations and documentation.
“The family is pursuing all available legal action for the immediate return of these items, and they ask that fans and collectors refrain from participating in this auction until the matter is settled to avoid getting further involved in this legal action.”
And while the Tom Petty estate has likewise alleged that RR is offering the “memorabilia with a completely false provenance inaccurate to fact” and is “in complete denial of clear evidence they have been presented,” the auction house pushed back against the claims in a statement to Digital Music News.
“RR Auction has been cooperating with the Petty family from the moment they reached out to us just days ago and will happily continue to do so without unnecessary hostile threats of litigation,” RR attorney Mark Zaid told us.
“We take theft allegations such as these very seriously. Indeed, in the years I have represented the company, we have never failed to reach an amicable resolution when on the rare occasion items presented by our consignors turned out to have provenance concerns.
“We continue to diligently investigate this situation and have requested the Petty family to cooperate with us as well. That said, we also take seriously any defamatory allegations against our company, which has developed a stellar reputation over the last half-a-century of auctions, many of which are often in the news,” he finished.