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Debt-ridden Annie Leibovitz looks to Santa Monica investment company for way out

March 9, 2010 |  3:44 pm

AnnieLeibovitz If you have any ideas for how famous pictures of famous people might be exploited to earn a bundle, give a holler to Santa Monica real estate investment giant Colony Capital LLC, which now has some $24-million worth of reasons to convert Annie Leibovitz's body of photographic work into cash.

The story behind this development, which, apart from the borrower's identity is more in the realm of high finance than arts news, has to do with a deeply indebted Leibovitz having previously put up her career output as a celebrity photographer as collateral for some whopping-big loans. Her woes made headlines last year when she failed to make payments and fell into jeopardy of losing the rights to her own work.

The Financial Times reported Tuesday that Colony Capital has paid off Leibovitz's previous lender, Manhattan-based Art Capital Group. Now Leibovitz owes the money to Colony instead, with Leibovitz's three Manhattan townhouses worth $20 million as collateral.

The plan, Colony Capital said in a statement, isn't to be the photographer's creditor so much as "partnering with Ms. Leibovitz in a business relationship that allows her to continue to flourish as an artist while together we seek opportunities to enhance the value of the magnificent body of work she has created over the past 40 years."

In other words, if you have a bright idea for how to make money off such images as the nude-and-pregnant Demi Moore that Leibovitz shot for Vanity Fair or the nude John Lennon clinging to Yoko Ono on the cover of Rolling Stone, let the photographer and her new partners know.

The Financial Times reports that Leibovitz, 60, will retain the rights to more than 100,000 of her photographs and a million negatives; it says Colony Capital founder Tom Barrack proposes traveling exhibitions and fine prints of Leibovitz's work as possible money-makers.

The private investment company's other celebrity asset is Neverland Ranch, the erstwhile Michael Jackson compound near Santa Barbara that Colony Capital scooped up in a deal comparable to this one by purchasing Jackson's defaulted $24.5 million loan on the property.

-- Mike Boehm


Photographer Annie Leibovitz's lifework is on the line

Photo: Annie Leibovitz. Credit: Charles Dharapak / Associated Press