Rauschenberg Foundation Pushes Back on Fees for Trustees

The is engaged in a court battle over claims by the three trustees of the artist's estate that they are entitled to at least $60 million in fees, the reports.

To date, the trustees — Rauschenberg's longtime companion and former assistant Darryl Pottorf; Bill Goldston, the artist's partner in an art-print publishing company; and accountant Bennet Grutman — have paid themselves a total of $5.7 million of the $60 million in fees they say they are due, in addition to $3.9 million for work they continued to do as consultants and employees of Rauschenberg's businesses. Court papers filed in Florida show that the three had contracted out many of their duties, hiring nine law firms that were paid more than $691,000, as well as an accounting firm and three auction houses.

Rules for how executors and trustees should be paid vary from state to state. In Florida, trustees are entitled to a "reasonable fee," while in New York executors typically receive a percentage of certain kinds of assets. Pottorf testified in a deposition in Florida that at first the figure of $60 million seemed "a little high to me," but that given "the hell I've been through" and the toll that the trusteeship has taken on his own health and career, he deemed the sum "reasonable." The foundation also has filed papers in New York Surrogate's Court, which in April approved a commission of $284,000 for Pottorf's work on the New York portion of the estate.

In recent years, artist foundations have increasingly found themselves embroiled in lawsuits, the Times reports. In March, two directors of the sued two trust administrators, accusing them of taking unauthorized fees and of inflating the value of Twombly's paintings to generate excessive fees and commissions. But estimating the value of works of even well-established artists is notoriously difficult. Rauschenberg's estate was valued at nearly $606 million in a 2009 federal tax return prepared by Grutman's firm, but when the trust finally turned over the majority of its assets to the foundation in 2012, the estate's value was listed at more than $2.3 billion.

Rauschenberg, who died in 2008, donated millions of dollars in support of causes such as AIDS research and treatment, the environment, and dance. Indeed, Christopher Rauschenberg, the artist's son and president of the Rauschenberg Foundation, said he is primarily concerned with having the foundation continue his father's philanthropic work. "You scratch your head and say, 'What are they thinking?'" Rauschenberg told the Times. "If a judge says $60 million is fair, we'll put it behind us and continue with the charitable stuff."

Patricia Cohen. "." New York Times 08/21/2013.