Auctioneer removes items Tom Petty’s family say were ‘purely stolen’
In an auction that started last week, RR Auction sold this satin jacket and more than 40 other Petty memorabilia on behalf of an anonymous sender. Items up for grabs included signed albums, concert posters, a pink guitar strap and clothing worn by the late rocker, including jackets, hats, t-shirts, cowboy boots and a vest on the space theme he wore during his performance at Live Aid in 1985.
But on Wednesday, Petty’s family accused RR Auction of selling items that were “purely stolen”, encouraging fans to boycott the auction and pledging to pursue “all available legal action for the return immediate of these articles”. The accusations led the Boston-based auction house on Thursday to suspend the sale of its Petty memorabilia and secure them out of “precaution and respectful deference to the family” while it investigates.
In the advertisement for Petty’s memorabilia, RR Auction claimed it acquired the items because they had once belonged to Petty’s first wife, Jane Benyo, who obtained the couple’s Los Angeles home and its contents in their 1996 divorce settlement. In 2015, after losing the house to foreclosure, the bank took possession of the property and ordered the contractors to dispose of the contents inside, the auction house told the auction. Last February, RR Auction’s anonymous sender purchased Petty’s former possessions, several of which were “photomatched” to confirm they had been worn by Petty, according to the auction house.
On Wednesday, Petty’s family released a statement on Instagram accusing the auction house of “offering stolen Tom Petty memorabilia with completely false provenance”, saying all items can be traced back to the installation of Petty family secure storage. Petty’s family members said RR Auction refused to tell them on whose behalf they were selling the memorabilia.
“But they are clearly stolen,” they said in the statement. “There is no other word for it.”
Later that day, an attorney representing RR Auction said he had been cooperating with the Petty family “from the time they contacted him just a few days ago” and would continue to do so, despite “unnecessary hostile threats of litigation”.
“We take theft allegations such as these very seriously,” attorney Mark Zaid said in a statement, adding that “we also take seriously any defamatory allegations against our company, which has developed an excellent reputation over the of the last half-century”.
On Thursday, Zaid released a second statement, saying RR Auction was “still aggressively investigating the… alleged theft” but had removed all Petty memorabilia from its auction until the case was “properly resolved. resolved”.