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Art Dealer Who Ripped Off Michael Ovitz Cops Grand Theft Plea

Variety logo Variety 3/31/2017 Gene Maddaus
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An art dealer who allegedly ripped off CAA founder Michael Ovitz pleaded no contest on Thursday to grand theft.

Perry Rubenstein was accused of failing to turn over the proceeds from the sale of two of the ex-mogul’s paintings in 2013. The dealer was also accused of selling a scroll in 2012 and failing to remit the full proceeds to its owner, art collector Michael Salke.

Rubenstein is scheduled to be sentenced on May 22. Under the plea agreement, Rubenstein will face 180 days in jail and three years of probation. He is expected to serve the sentence in a private jail facility. The judge is also expected to impose restitution of $1.14 million, though Rubenstein is expected to actually pay only $167,500.

Ovitz sued the dealer in 2013. According to the suit, Ovitz placed two Richard Prince works, “Nobody’s Home” and “Untitled (de Kooning),” for sale on consignment with the Perry Rubenstein Gallery. Ovitz alleged that Rubenstein sold “Nobody’s Home” without his permission for $475,000 — below the agreed upon $575,000 minimum — and then did not turn over the proceeds. Ovitz also alleged that Rubenstein agreed to sell “Untitled (de Kooning)” to a Mexican buyer with net proceeds of $500,000 to Ovitz. But, according to Ovitz, Rubenstein later said the buyer was slow on delivering the payment. Ovitz ultimately demanded the return of the painting but was refused, according to the suit.

The Perry Rubenstein Gallery filed for bankruptcy in 2014, listing $1.1 million in assets and $5.4 million in liabilities.

Ovitz filed another lawsuit against Chartis Property Casualty Co., alleging that the insurer had breached its agreement in the matter. According to that suit, the insurer agreed to pay Ovitz $1.6 million for the loss of “Nobody’s Home,” but refused to pay anything for “Untitled (de Kooning).” The suit sought $2.5 million, which Ovitz claimed was the work’s full insured value. Ovitz and the insurer reached an out-of-court settlement of the dispute last summer.

In March of 2016, Ovitz and Rubenstein reached a separate settlement under which Rubenstein agreed to return “Untitled (de Kooning)” to Ovitz. Under that agreement, Ovitz agreed not to pursue criminal charges, according to Rubenstein’s civil attorney.

Rubenstein was arrested one month later.

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