The family of the late musician Tom Petty has accused a Boston auction house of stealing his clothing in order to sell it at auction, urging fans and collectors to not buy the items while it pursues legal action.
RR Auction house currently has more than 40 items of Petty’s clothing listed for auction, including jackets, bags, boots, hats and T-shirts. On its website, the auction house claims it acquired the clothes after Petty’s first wife, Jane Benyo Petty, lost their family home in Encino to foreclosure in 2015.
The auction house said that when bank JP Morgan took possession of the property, contractors disposed of the contents, which included Petty’s clothing. “In February 2023, our consignor purchased these items that the bank discarded,” the auction house says on its website, saying it “photo matched” the items to confirm they were worn by Petty.
The items include a famous black and white striped jacket, a Greenpeace jumper and a black cap which he wore on Australian television while being interviewed by Molly Meldrum.
On Wednesday, Petty’s family released a statement accusing RR Auction of “offering stolen Tom Petty memorabilia with a completely false provenance inaccurate to fact and in complete denial of clear evidence they have been presented. They will not disclose the cosigner who has provided these items or how they were acquired. But they are clearly stolen, there is no other word for it.”
The family alleges that all of the items have “an established provenance in the Petty family’s secure storage” and said it had based their accusations against RR Auction “on prior knowledge, staff observations and documentation”.
Petty’s family is pursuing “swift” legal action “for the immediate return of these items” and asked fans and collectors to not buy any of the items “to avoid getting further involved in this legal action”.
“These items have irreplaceable sentimental and educational value for the family and legacy of Tom Petty and we look forward to their safe return,” the wrote.
RR Auction’s attorney, Mark S Zaid, told the Guardian that the business “has been cooperating with the Petty family from the moment they reached out to us just days ago and will happily continue to do so without unnecessary hostile threats of litigation.”
“We take theft allegations such as these very seriously. Indeed, in the years I have represented the company, we have never failed to reach an amicable resolution when on the rare occasion items presented by our consignors turned out to have provenance concerns,” he said, adding that the company will “continue to diligently investigate”.
Petty died in 2017, at the age of 66.