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Photographer Leibovitz strikes new debt deal to retain portfolio

Annie Leibovitz will work on new projects with Colony Capital LLC. Annie Leibovitz will work on new projects with Colony Capital LLC. (Lilli Strauss/ AP/ File 2009)
By Ula Ilnytzky
Associated Press / March 10, 2010

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NEW YORK - Annie Leibovitz, the photographer who mismanaged her fortune so badly that she faced losing legal rights to some of pop culture’s most enduring images, has reached a long-term agreement with a private investment firm to help manage her debt and market her vast portfolio, both sides said yesterday.

Leibovitz, 60, will retain total control of her multimillion-dollar portfolio under the deal she signed with Colony Capital LLC of Santa Monica, Calif., on Monday, said Richard Nanula, a principal with the firm. Under the agreement, Colony will become the photographer’s sole creditor and help market her archive of such provocative images as a nude John Lennon cuddling with a clothed Yoko Ono hours before his death, as well as a nude and very pregnant Demi Moore.

Leibovitz obtained an extension last year to repay a $24 million loan to a Manhattan firm, Art Capital Group, in a financial dispute that had threatened her rights to those images and others. The specific terms of the new deal were not disclosed, but Nanula said “it pays off all the Art Capital loan. . . . It cleans up the rest of her balance sheet.’’

The Colony loan also contains more than $20 million of real estate collateral, Nanula added - Leibovitz’s three Manhattan town houses. The Art Capital loan was repaid Monday, he said.

Art Capital confirmed the repayment and said in a statement that it “is pleased to announce that its loan to Annie Leibovitz has been satisfied. We are encouraged by the results of this complex transaction and wish Ms. Leibovitz the best in all of her future endeavors.’’

“It’s long-term in nature,’’ Nanula said of the partnership with Leibovitz. “Our interest is in helping her be successful and to be her financial partner.’’

“Colony is a dedicated and creative team,’’ Leibovitz said in a statement. “We will be working on new projects, and I will have the support and freedom necessary for nurturing my work and preserving my archive.’’

“Colony Capital, LLC has formed a new partnership with Annie Leibovitz, one of world’s greatest portrait photographers,’’ the firm said in a statement. “We are delighted to be able to do that here by partnering with Ms. Leibovitz in a business relationship that allows her to continue to flourish as an artist while together we seek opportunities to enhance the value of the magnificent body of work she has created over the past 40 years.’’

Those opportunities, Nanula said, could involve traveling exhibitions of Leibovitz’s works, books, and fine-art copies of her photographs. He stressed that any commercialization of her work would be decided by Leibovitz and that Colony would be her financial partner in any such venture.

Leibovitz’s portfolio is estimated to contain more than 100,000 images and 1 million negatives. “It’s one of the most valuable and unexploited’’ photo archives, Nanula said. The deal between Colony and Leibovitz was first reported in the Financial Times.