Annie Leibovitz Reaches Settlement with Creditors

The photographer wins back the rights to all her artwork.

September 8, 2009, 6:03 PM

Sept. 11, 2009— -- Famed photographer Annie Leibovitz and her creditors reached an agreement Friday afternoon that extends the $24 million loan Leibovitz was supposed to pay back Tuesday.

As part of the latest deal, Leibovitz has also purchased back from the creditor, Art Capital Group, the rights to act as exclusive agent in the sale of her real estate and the copyrights to all of her present and future works.

"Leibovitz will therefore retain control of those assets within the context of the loan agreement which shall prevail until satisfied," the parties said in a joint statement.

No details were provided about the terms of the new deal or for how long Art Capital extended the deadline. As part of the deal, Art Capital will withdraw a lawsuit it filed in July against Leibovitz, a celebrity photographer, whose high fees and expensive shoots made her almost as famous as the stars she shot.

"In these challenging times I am appreciative to Art Capital for all they have done to resolve this matter and for their cooperation and continued support," Leibovitz said in a statement. "I also want to thank my family, friends, and colleagues for being there for me and look forward to concentrating on my work."

"We're gratified to be able to further assist Ms. Leibovitz to achieve financial stability and proud to have been of such value to her at this juncture in her life and career," Ian Peck, CEO of Art Capital Group said in the same statement.

Click Here to See Leibovitz's Famous Vanity Fair Cover Shots

It isn't exactly clear where all of Leibovitz's money has gone. She was once rumored to have a so-called contract for life from magazine publisher Conde Nast that paid anywhere from $2 million to $5 million a year. For individual photo shots she was reported to charge $100,000 to $250,000 a day.

Regardless of exactly how much she took in, with iconic photos on the cover of Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair and posh clients such as Louis Vuitton, The Peninsula and American Express, Leibovitz wasn't exactly poor.

But Leibovitz, 59, apparently has never been too good at keeping tabs on her money, either.

A detailed look at her finances, published last month by New York magazine, noted that her shoots often ran over budget and in her own personal life she often spent generously on those she loved. When her partner Susan Sontag was being treated for cancer, she chartered a private jet to transport her around the country.

Annie Leibovitz's Financial Downfall

She also liked to live large, taking trips, hiring a staff that reportedly included a chef, housekeeper, yoga instructor and a live-in nanny.

Leibovitz has three children who may now have to also adjust their lifestyle: Sarah Cameron Leibovitz, born when Leibovitz was 51 years old, and twins -- Susan and Samuelle -- who were born to a surrogate mother in May 2005.

The depth of Leibovitz's problems didn't surface until the New York Times did a front page feature in February on the company -- the Times called it a "pawnshop" in the headline -- that loaned her the $24 million.

The bulk of Leibovitz's debt apparently comes from extensive renovations at two of the Greenwich Village town houses that she bought in 2002 and ultimately combined into one property. Damage during the renovations led to a $15 million lawsuit from a neighbor.

Annie Leibovitz Could Lose Rights to All Her Celebrity Photos

Around 2004, Leibovitz started taking out a number of loans while she tried to get her financial house in order. She ended up selling some properties -- including a photo studio for $11.4 million -- but she has also borrowed heavily against her other properties and the money apparently wasn't enough.

Finally, in September 2008, she turned to Art Capital Group, the company the Times called a pawnbroker, to consolidate all her loans. The company, which specializes in making loans to owners of high end art work, charges interest rates of 6 percent to 16 percent.

To secure her loan, Leibovitz put up her homes, which are estimated to be worth around $40 million, and -- more importantly -- the rights to her work, also valued at about $40 million.

In a lawsuit, Art Capital Group alleged that Leibovitz breached her contract with the company by refusing to allow real estate experts into her homes to appraise their value and by blocking the company from selling her photographs.

Her most famous images include a photograph of John Lennon taken hours before he was assassinated and a nude portrait of a pregnant Demi Moore for the cover of Vanity Fair.

One possible option that was being rumored was that that Leibovitz could file for personal bankruptcy, which would leave it up to a judge to sort out her debts and the rights over her work. Friday's announcement buys her at least some more time.

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