Even the mega-talented among us have to pay their bills

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It’s not just the average man or woman who is facing financial problems, and it’s not always related to the economic turndown.  The name Annie Leibovitz is well known in and out of photography circles as an enormous, undisputed talent.  Some of her most famous works include the picture of nude, very pregnant Demi Moore, as well as photographs of Jack Nicholson and Mikhail Baryshnikov.  With a seven figure annual income from Vanity Fair and contracts for tens of thousands of dollars every day from commercial clients like Louis Vuitton, she’s the envy of amateur and professional photographers everywhere. But that’s not enough to prevent her from being in deep financial hot water.

Within the last two years, she’s been hit with two lawsuits claiming she owes more than $700,000 in bills related to photography services, as well as tax liens for $1.4 million. But that is only the beginning.  Now she may be losing her country home in upstate New York, her properties in Greenwich Village, and the rights to her work.  Most of her troubles seem to have their roots in properties she inherited from her late companion, Susan Sontag.   To keep the properties, Leibovitz went deeply into debt paying the estate tax and other associated costs.   She arranged a $24 million line of credit with Art Capital Group (ACG) in order to “catch up” with her financial obligations. Now, with payment, plus interest and fees, due on September 8th and no way to meet it, ACG has filed suit.   

Some critics are turning the blame on ACG, saying the lender is similar to a “high-end” pawn shop. The company -- which makes custom-tailored loans to artists, art dealers, and art collectors – has a history of litigation based on these loans.  

But the wording of the lawsuit points out that Leibovitz was not blindsided by the deal. “In connection with the negotiation of this $22 million credit facility, Leibovitz discussed and acknowledged that Leibovitz’s fine art, intellectual property, and real estate assets, all collateral for the loan, would likely need to be sold, in whole or in part, as part of the process of Leibovitz’s financial restructuring,” the suit charges. Now, says ACG, she is refusing to cooperate by allowing real estate appraisers access to her properties.

"The mind that can take these extraordinary pictures is not necessarily the same mind that is a perfect money manager", said Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair.

In another quote, he added",If anybody has the ability put these debts away though work, she has the energy and the opportunity. She has an infinite capacity for work."

Still, other friends and colleagues believe Leibovitz needs a reality check.  There is no magic solution to erase a $24 million bill, and the photographer needs to adjust her way of thinking and her attitudes in this situation.Jerrold Mundis, is a counselor to high-profile people with financial issues. He admits he has not counseled Leibovitz, but, he sums up her dilemma in just a few words: "Celebrity or even a spectacular talent doesn't proof one against a problem with debt.” 

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