Audrey Hepburn’s sons are waging a legal battle over the right to display memorabilia, according to a lawsuit filed today in L.A. Superior Court.
The younger son, Luca Dotti, is the chairman of the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund. According to the suit, the older son, Sean Ferrer, has been interfering in the charity’s efforts to exhibit Hepburn memorabilia.
Hepburn died in 1993. According to the suit, Ferrer and Dotti — who each live in Italy — jointly own their mother’s effects. Shortly after her death, they formed the charitable fund and signed an agreement to donate proceeds from exhibitions to various children’s charities.
But the lawsuit contends that Ferrer ran into financial difficulties in 2008 and 2009, including a divorce and a burdensome real estate transaction in Italy. In 2012, Ferrer withdrew from the fund’s board and Dotti took over as chairman. The following spring, Ferrer sent a notice attempting to block the fund from exhibiting his mother’s effects, the lawsuit states.
According to the suit, Ferrer then took control of the fund’s GoDaddy account, which hosts its website and email. The suit also contends that Ferrer interfered with Dotti’s efforts to use photographs of their mother in a cookbook, “Audrey at Home.”
Ferrer has also raised objections to a forthcoming series of exhibits of Hepburn memorabilia in China. The lawsuit claims that Ferrer had his Swiss lawyer send a letter to the Chinese exhibitor threatening to sue if the exhibits went forward. Ferrer also forced a postponement of an exhibit in Australia and the cancellation of one in Korea, according to the suit.
“Ferrer seeks to entirely control, limit and prohibit the Fund from using the Hepburn IP unless it is willing to pay a significant portion of the fundraising proceeds to a charity of Ferrer’s choice, or to simply preclude the Fund from utilizing the Hepburn IP altogether,” the suit alleges.
As a result, the fund claims that it is at risk of being unable to meet charitable obligations to children’s hospitals and could be forced to shut down.
Ferrer could not be immediately reached for comment.