The estate of Robert Indiana and the late artist’s longtime representative have tentatively agreed to settle their legal dispute and asked the judges in the complicated case involving his art and legacy to pause the proceedings so they can work out the details of the settlement.

The Indiana estate filed a letter Thursday in U.S. District Court in New York’s Southern District announcing a tentative agreement with the Morgan Art Foundation, which sued Indiana in May 2018 for copyright and other infringements and general mismanagement of the estate. Indiana died at age 89 within a day after the suit was filed. In addition to dragging on for more 2 1/2 years, the case has cost the Indiana estate as much as $8 million in legal fees.

“We are pleased to inform the Court that the Estate and the Morgan Parties have signed a confidential term sheet setting forth the anticipated terms of a settlement agreement among them,” estate attorney Edward P. Boyle wrote in a letter addressed to Judges Analisa Torres and Barbara Moses. “To allow sufficient time for the Estate and the Morgan Parties to draft and execute the settlement agreement and certain other related agreements, the Estate and the Morgan Parties jointly request a suspension of discovery, pending motions, and all other proceedings in the Actions for 60 days.”

Neither Boyle nor Morgan attorney Luke Nikas would discuss the proposed settlement Friday, and its terms were not included in the letter announcing the agreement. James Brannan, the Rockland attorney who serves as personal representative to the estate, also refused to discuss details, saying, “We’re not there yet, but I think this is a great deal for the Star of Hope Foundation and Bob’s legacy. That’s the most important part of it, from my perspective.”

He called the tentative agreement “a great ending to this whole mess.”

Indiana created the Star of Hope Foundation before he died, to serve as a museum for his art and personal story. Famous for creating an image of the word “LOVE” with a tilted “O,” Indiana lived the last 40 years of his life in a former Odd Fellows Lodge known as the Star of Hope on Vinalhaven island, off the coast of Rockland.


His legacy as one of America’s most important and influential pop artists was tarnished by allegations in the lawsuit that much of his late-career work was made fraudulently, with or without his authorization, and that he lived his final years in isolation and subjected to elder abuse. The lawsuit, which spawned other related legal suits in New York and Maine, alleged that Indiana’s caretaker, Jamie Thomas; and an art publisher, Michael McKenzie, took advantage of Indiana by isolating him in his home and making work in his name that he did not authorize.

Thomas, of Vinalhaven, has strongly denied the allegations, and McKenzie, who lives in New York, has said Indiana approved all the work in question. The proposed settlement would resolve all claims and counterclaims involving Morgan, the Indiana estate and Thomas, but leaves in place the legal claims between Morgan and McKenzie and the estate and McKenzie. McKenzie’s attorney, John Markham of Boston and Waldoboro, said McKenzie welcomed the news of the settlement.

“Mike Mackenzie applauds any settlement that leaves more money for the Star of Hope and Vinalhaven and the surrounding area, rather than spending it on lawyers,” Markham said. “That’s why he’s trying to settle and enforce the settlement agreement we already made with the estate.”

In an email, McKenzie said the settlement should be made public. “Given that (the) Estate has spent millions of dollars to accuse Morgan of innumerable acts of bad faith … hiding the details of this settlement I think is a disservice to the people of Maine, anyone interested in Indiana and charities in general,” he said. “As this has been so public, hiding the settlement in my opinion brings up more questions whereas being transparent closes the door on this travesty.”

In his statement, Markham referred to ongoing litigation between McKenzie and the Indiana estate. The parties had reached a settlement agreement and are involved in arbitration to enforce the settlement.

With its tentative agreement with Morgan, the estate will pause in its depositions of key members of the Morgan team, including art consultant Simon Salama-Caro, who began working with Indiana in the 1990s. If the proposed settlement is not executed, depositions would continue, according to Boyle’s letter to the court. Brannan said he expected the settlement would be finalized, because both sides are motivated. “We’ve got 60 days to put it together, and we are all committed to doing it,” he said.

This is the second major development in the Indiana proceedings this fall. In September, Morgan and the Star of Hope Foundation announced a binding agreement, negotiated with the approval of the Maine Attorney General’s Office, that created a united legal front. The Star of Hope Foundation is not a party in the lawsuit but has become entangled because its work is tied to the outcome of the litigation and the value of Indiana’s estate, roughly estimated at $90 million.

The Maine attorney general got involved out of concern over mounting legal fees, which erode the value of the estate. The estate has spent between $6 million and $8 million in legal fees, Brannan said, adding that the tentative agreement will put an end to most of those fees.

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