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Updated: January 26, 2022

Settlement reached in battle over fees paid out by Robert Indiana estate

A settlement has been reached in the ongoing saga over fees paid by the estate of Vinalhaven artist Robert Indiana to a personal representative of the estate as well as to its law firms.

Maine Attorney General Aaron M. Frey announced Monday that a settlement has been reached, resolving claims against the representative, Rockland attorney James Brannan, and the firms.

The settlement stems from the AG's lawsuit in Knox County Probate Court alleging that Brannan had paid excessive fees to himself and the law firms he hired. 

According to Frey's office, the overall value of Monday’s settlement totals more than $2 million, the bulk of which was paid by the firms collectively in refunds and credits.

Robert Indiana, an artist best known for the stacked "LOVE" image, died at his Vinalhaven home in May 2018.

Since then, a battle over the artist’s work has played out publicly. His estate, administered by Brannan, has been party to copyright and production rights litigation with longtime business partner Morgan Art Foundation, and another business associate, Michael McKenzie, who does business as American Image Art.

Brannan has disputed the claims but was “pleased to put an end to the dispute," he said in a statement.

The attorney general sued the representative in November 2020 to reduce the fees he had paid himself and his law firms related to those lawsuits, which totaled more than $6 million at that time. By the time of these settlements, the combined fees exceeded $10 million, Frey said in the release.
The personal representative was responsible, Frey said, with oversight of the estate’s sole beneficiary, the Star of Hope Inc. charitable organization. 

“Every dollar going unnecessarily to pay lawyers and the personal representative was another dollar unavailable to the charity to fulfill its mission and Robert Indiana’s vision,” said Frey. “This office is pleased our work preserved significant resources to be used for the benefit of the Star of Hope Inc.” 

Indiana established the nonprofit during his lifetime to restore his residence on Vinalhaven, a former Odd Fellows hall not far from the ferry landing in Vinalhaven. Indiana referred to it as the Star of Hope and instructed that it be used as a museum for his collection and an art education center. 

The lawsuit with Morgan Art Foundation is now over. The lawsuit with McKenzie/American Image Art is being handled by lawyers for Star of Hope Inc. 

“We are pleased that the finalization of the estate is on the horizon and that the Star of Hope can now focus on its future with more certainty and financial security,” Frey said.

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