The Tom Petty estate has announced it is taking “expedient legal action” over the auction of what it says are “completely stolen” memorabilia.
A lengthy message was recently posted on Tom Petty’s official Twitter account regarding the legal action and the estate’s concerns with the auction house involved, Boston’s RR Auction. (When contacted by DMN, RR provided a statement and in a follow-up email said that the company “does not own the items in question” but instead represents “the shipper.”) RR is currently accepting bids of all types of clothing said to belong to the singer, songwriter and producer of “I Won’t Back Down.”
Items included in the 45 available listings include Tom Petty’s MTV Duffle Bag (bid up to $569), Tom Petty’s Beaded Moccasins (bid max $200) and Tom Petty’s Colorful Burmese Hat with Elephants and Flowers” (best bid $847). Also includes t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, vests, shoes, boots, scarves and guitar straps.
According to RR’s website, the relatively uncomplicated process of auctioning off the items can be traced back to Petty’s 1996 divorce from his first wife, Jane Benyo, who purchased their longtime home in Encino (reportedly including its contents) as part of the related settlement should. However, Benyo reportedly lost the home to a foreclosure in 2015, and the bank then hired contractors to vacate the home in preparation for a sale, RR’s description said.
“In February 2023, our consignor bought these items that had been discarded by the bank,” RR explained the memorabilia’s journey to the auction. “Some of the items were matched to photos including Tom Petty’s famous black and white striped jacket, several t-shirts, a Greenpeace sweatshirt and a black beanie featured in photos and when appearing on Molly Meldrum’s Australian TV show was carried.”
But as mentioned at the outset, the Tom Petty estate – which previously grappled with a high-profile legal battle between the singer-songwriter’s widow and daughters – unequivocally reiterates its opposition to the auction.
“Tom Petty’s family is taking swift legal action against auction house RR,” the estate reads wrote part. “The home has announced an ongoing auction of Petty’s personal property which the entire family has the firm belief, based on prior knowledge, staff observation and documentation, to have been stolen from secure archives.
“The family is taking all available legal action to secure the immediate return of these items and is asking fans and collectors to refrain from participating in this auction until the matter is resolved to avoid further legal action.” “
And while Tom Petty’s estate has also claimed that RR is offering the memorabilia of “an entirely false provenance that is inconsistent with the facts” and “completely denies clear evidence that has been presented to support this,” the auction house has denied the claims in a statement to Digital Music News.
“RR Auction has worked with the Petty family since they reached out to us a few days ago and will happily continue to do so without undue hostile threats of litigation,” RR Attorney Mark Zaid told us.
“We take allegations of theft like this very seriously. In fact, over the years that I have represented the company, we have always been able to find an amicable solution when, on the rare occasions, there have been concerns about the origin of the items presented by our consignors.
“We continue to carefully investigate this situation and have asked the Petty family to work with us as well. However, we also take seriously any slanderous allegations against our company, which has built a formidable reputation over the last half century through auctions, many of which are often in the news,” he concluded.