July 30, 2009 / 7:34 PM / 8 years ago

Photographer Leibovitz sued for breach of contract

<p>U.S. photographer Annie Leibovitz attends the inauguration of her exhibition 'A Photographer's Life 1990-2005' in Madrid June 18, 2009.Susana Vera</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An art finance company that lent celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz $24 million against the value of her entire collection and her properties has sued her for violating the terms of the agreement.

In a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday, Art Capital Group Inc asked a judge to compel Leibovitz to cooperate with the person assigned to sell her copyrights and organize the sale of her properties, so Leibovitz can pay back the loan.

In a statement, a spokesman for Leibovitz called the allegations "false and untrue."

The lawsuit said Leibovitz, 59, who has photographed everyone from Michelle Obama to Britain's Queen Elizabeth and a very pregnant Demi Moore in the nude, approached Art Capital in June 2008 about her "dire financial condition."

She initially obtained a $22 million loan from American Photography, which is held by Art Capital Group. Later that amount was increased to $24 million.

The breach of contract lawsuit accuses Leibovitz of "boldly deceptive conduct" and seeks to compel her to grant real estate agents access to homes in Manhattan and in Rhinebeck, New York, so they can be sold and the money used to repay the loan.

"In connection with the negotiation of this $22 million credit facility, Leibovitz discussed and acknowledged that Leibovitz's fine art, intellectual property and real estate assets, all collateral for the loan, would likely need to be sold ... as part of the process of Leibovitz's financial restructuring," the lawsuit said.

Since then, Leibovitz has refused to meet with parties interested in buying her collection of photographs and has refused access to her properties, in breach of her contract with Art Capital, the lawsuit said.

Leibovitz's spokesman said the lawsuit "is part of Art Capital's continued harassment and attention-getting efforts."

"There has been tension and dispute since the beginning," the statement said. "For now, her attention remains on her photography and on continuing to organize her finances."

Reporting by Edith Honan; editing by Michelle Nichols and Todd Eastham

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