Why Annie Leibovitz’s $24M Debt Might Not Be Her Fault

Last year, Annie Leibovitz found herself in over $24 million in debt.

“The mind that can take these extraordinary pictures is not necessarily the same mind that is a perfect money manager,” Graydon Carter, one of the artist’s greatest fans told the NYT at the time. Annie’s photographs may be consistently brilliant, but news of unpaid loans and crazy spending habits proved her ability to pay bills was anything but.

In the fall of 2008, Leibovitz came under fire after essentially pawning her life’s work in exchange for some cash. She initially took a $5 million loan and later an additional $10.5 million from Art Capital to help pay off her debts — a sad, sad day for Leibovitz lovers who think of her work as priceless. Even sadder was the day Art Capital brought the photographer to court for failing to pay back her loans. What a mess.

Ultimately, Leibovitz and Art Capital settled, and the artist received a much needed extension on the pay back of her loan. She eventually struck a deal with Colony Capital, who agreed manage the debt.

And now the plot seems to thicken. Yesterday, financial advisor Kenneth Starr was arrested on fraud charges in New York. Apparently it was Starr who introduced Annie to Art Capital and was in charge of managing the loan. He is now being charged with using his client’s investments to benefit his own interests — namely a $7.5 million apartment on the Upper East Side. Maddoff, anyone?

“News of Kenneth Starr’s arrest does not come as a complete surprise to me and I will follow this story with great interest. ” Leibovitz told WWD. “Ken Starr no longer represents me and has not for some time.”

Maybe if she wasn’t so shocked, she should have ended her financial relationship with Starr sooner. So is it not Annie’s fault after all? Without a doubt, the photographer could have a better hold on her expenses. She should have been watching her money with that close eye we know and love. But for now, until the Starr mess becomes clearer, we can cut her some slack.

[via WWD.]

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