Art law News USA

Rauschenberg Foundation trial nears verdict

A Florida judge is due to decide if three trustees deserve $60m in compensation, or much less

Shortly before his death in 2008, Rauschenberg asked three friends to oversee his estate

A Florida judge is due to decide whether three trustees of the Robert Rauschenberg Revocable Trust should receive up to $60m in total as compensation for their work in administering the trust. The feud began in 2011 and finally made its way to court earlier this month.

The trustees, all of whom were close friends of the artist, have sued the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation for what they say is fair payment for the “extraordinary services” they provided (they have already paid themselves $1.9m each in fees). The Foundation disagrees with the “outrageous” demand of $60m and says that a payout of around $375,000 would be more appropriate, according to televised court testimony and media reports.

Shortly before his death in 2008, Rauschenberg asked three friends to oversee his estate: Bennet Grutman, the artist’s accountant; Darryl Pottorf, Rauschenberg’s companion and the executor of his will; and Bill Goldston, who was a partner with Rauschenberg in a fine art print publishing company.

In his will, the artist stated that his entire estate should go into a trust to be overseen by these three. The Robert Rauschenberg Revocable Trust should distribute its assets to beneficiaries, with the main recipient being the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, which was founded in 1990.

The trustees say that they grew the value of Rauschenberg’s estate, which includes more than 7,000 works of art, from $600m to $2.2bn, and that they deserve a percentage. The true value of the estate has been heavily disputed.

When the assets were transferred from the trust to the foundation in 2012, the estate was valued at $326m, according to Bloomberg News. Since then, the foundation took out a $1.6bn insurance policy on the estate, but says this was just a temporary estimate while its real value was being determined. The artist’s son and president of the foundation, Christopher Rauschenberg, testified in court this month that he expects to insure the estate for less than $550m next year.

Rules for the payment of trustees vary for each state. In Florida, where Rauschenberg lived on Captiva Island, trustees are entitled to a “reasonable fee”, whereas in states including New York, they are more usually awarded a percentage of certain assets. Both sides have now delivered their arguments and await the decision of Judge Jay Rosman of Lee County Circuit Court.

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Comments

30 Jun 14
22:21 CET

DAVID GRONDIN, PORTLAND MAINE

give the money to usf fine arts, so the students can enjoy...

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