The University of Texas System on Friday sued actor Ryan O’Neal, seeking recovery of an Andy Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett that the complaint claims the actress left to UT-Austin upon her death. Three Texas lawyers from Beck, Redden & Secrest and lawyers from San Francisco-based Morrison & Foerster are representing the UT System. The plaintiff filed The Board of Regents for the University of Texas System on Behalf of the University of Texas at Austin v. Ryan O’NealJuly 8 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles. According to the complaint, the facts are as follows: In the early 1980s, Warhol created two portraits of Fawcett. “Ms. Fawcett left all of her artwork and objects of art to UT Austin” through a trust she created in her lifetime. Fawcett died in 2009, and the university received one of the Warhol portraits; “Mr. O’Neal has wrongfully converted the missing Warhol portrait that belongs to UT Austin.” The plaintiff asks the court to compel O’Neal to transfer the art to the university or award damages equivalent to the portrait’s monetary value. The plaintiff also seeks injunctive relief to require O’Neal to keep the art safe, maintain insurance and avoid selling the portrait; it seeks actual damages, applicable exemplary damages, attorney’s fees and court costs. A spokesman for O’Neal, Arnold Robinson of the California public relations firm Rogers & Cowan, writes in an e-mailed statement that the suit is “ridiculous.” Robinson writes that O’Neal was friends with Warhol. “When Ryan introduced Andy to Farrah, Mr. Warhol chose to complete two portraits of her, one for Ms. Fawcett and one for Mr. O’Neal. Mr. O’Neal looks forward to being completely vindicated in the courts,” the statement reads in part. UT-Austin spokesman Don Hale refers comment to the UT System. UT System spokesman Matt Flores, who also is spokesman for the regents, says, “We typically don’t comment on pending litigation.” David Beck of Beck, Redden & Secrest in Houston did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment. Another UT System lawyer from Beck, Redden, Eric Nichols, writes in an e-mail, “Barry Burgdorf or someone else from UT has called you back or will be calling you back.” UT System General Counsel Barry Burgdorf declines comment, Flores says. No attorney is listed for O’Neal on PACER, the federal courts’ online filing system.
-- Angela Morris