In what appears to be a tit for tat legal action in a messy business divorce, celebrity and pop art photographer David LaChapelle has been hit with a $75 million lawsuit by the former manager he sued last year for about $3.5 million.
Fred Torres, who managed LaChapelle’s relationships with clients, galleries and museums until last fall, alleges that the photographer breached their photographer/agent agreement, stole Torres’s customer lists, and is refusing to pay millions of dollars in expenses and commissions due to Torres.
Torres filed his lawsuit March 27 in state supreme court in Manhattan.
He alleges that LaChapelle fired him without notice, destroying Torres’s reputation and business in the process. Torres claims that he’s owed more than $5 million in expenses for printing LaChapelle’s work for exhibitions and print sales, and upwards of $20 million in past and future commissions for exhibition contracts and print sales that he brokered.
Torres also claims that LaChapelle surreptitiously hired away Torres’s employees in order to help him (LaChapelle) steal Torres customers lists and other proprietary data. Torres values the stolen information at $40-50 million.
“In or about mid-2012, the photographer defendants created a plan to try to steal [Torres's] extensive share of proceeds and steal its business,” Torres says in the lawsuit.
In addition to naming LaChapelle as a defendant, Torres also names the Paul Kasmin Gallery, which is LaChapelle’s new exclusive agent, and the former employees who allegedly conspired with LaChapele to steal customers lists and stored prints.
Torres is seeking $55 million in damages from the Paul Kasmin Gallery.
The damage claims include punitive damage, because the alleged actions of the defendants were “the product of malice, ill will, and spite,” Torres says in court papers.
Torres says in his lawsuit that he dated LaChapelle in the 1990s, after which they continued a business relationship. In 2008, when Torres opened a gallery and began representing works by other photographers, too, he and LaChapelle signed a brief written agreement to formalize their business relationship.
LaChapelle claimed in his lawsuit against Torres late last year that Torres was withholding $2.8 million owed to LaChapelle for sales of his prints. He also alleged that Torres owed him $755,000 worth of personal loans, and that Torres was refusing to return 800 exhibitions prints that were stashed in storage facilities around the world.
LaChapelle’s claim against Torres is still pending, and the photographer has not yet responded to Torres’s counter-claim.