Tom Petty's Widow Sued for $5 Million over Alleged Misappropriation of His Estate

Gary Miller/FilmMagic
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform live in concert at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater Aug. 26, 2008 in San Antonio, Texas. 

New suit is the latest salvo in an escalating legal battle over Petty's assets.

In yet another escalation of the ongoing legal battle between Tom Petty’s widow Dana York Petty and his daughters Adria Petty and Annakim Violette, a suit filed in Los Angeles County court on Wednesday (May 15) is now accusing Dana and several other defendants of breach of fiduciary duty, unfair competition, unjust enrichment and more.

Filed on behalf of plaintiff Petty Unlimited -- an LLC established in Petty’s will that allocated one-third of Petty’s assets to each of the three women -- the suit alleges “self-dealing, theft, and gross mismanagement of company assets” on Dana’s part by failing to fund the LLC with assets from Petty’s trust, for which she was previously named as “directing trustee.”

Instead, the new suit alleges, Dana set up a separate LLC, Tom Petty Legacy, “as a vehicle through which to deprive” Petty Unlimited of those assets. It further alleges that the co-named defendants -- which include Lawrence N. Jenkins, Anthony Dimitriades, Alan Arora, the company LJ Entertainment LLC and unnamed individuals deemed “Does 1-50” -- worked “in conjunction with” Dana to achieve this. In so doing, the suit claims, they violated California’s common law against unfair competition as well as the state’s Business and Professions Code section 17200.   

“Tom Petty wanted his music and his legacy to be controlled equally by his daughters, Adria and Annakim, and his wife, Dana,” said Petty Unlimited’s attorney Alex Weingarten in a statement to Billboard. “Dana has refused Tom’s express wishes and insisted instead upon misappropriating Tom’s life’s work for her own selfish interests. After countless efforts to resolve this matter amicably and out of court, we could no longer stand idly by and watch Dana disrespect Tom’s wishes, his music, and his legacy.”

Petty Unlimited is asking for compensatory damages “in excess of” $5 million according to proof at trial, punitive and exemplary damages, recovery of Petty’s assets from Dana and the establishment of a “constructive trust” in the plaintiff’s favor over all assets “wrongfully” in the defendants’ possession. Further, the plaintiff is asking for injunctive relief enjoining all defendants and “persons acting in concert with them” from further interfering with the plaintiff’s “business opportunities” relating to Petty’s assets.

“This misguided and meritless lawsuit sadly demonstrates exactly why Tom Petty designated his wife to be the sole trustee with authority to manage his estate,” said Dana Petty’s attorney Adam Streisand in response to the suit. “Dana will not allow destructive nonsense like this to distract her from protecting her husband’s legacy.”

Adria and Annakim are not individually named as plaintiffs in the new suit.

Wednesday’s suit follows a petition filed by Dana Petty in early April that accused Adria and Annakim of attempting to thwart her role as directing trustee, thereby making it next to impossible to manage Petty’s estate. In that suit, Dana requested the establishment of an operating agreement that would require consensus between the three women regarding any significant decisions about Petty’s assets. She also accused Adria of “erratic behavior” that allegedly held up the release of two posthumous albums featuring Petty’s music.

Around the same time, Adria filed her own petition that accused Dana of attempting to prevent her and Annakim from "participat[ing] equally in the management” of their father’s estate by neglecting to distribute his assets into the Petty Unlimited LLC. Adria petitioned the court to order immediate funding of the LLC.

This new suit states that Petty Unlimited was established to own and exploit “all tangible and intangible properties held directly or indirectly by Tom Petty at the time of his death and attributable to any of his efforts with respect to his music,” including all of his rights as a recording artist, composer, publisher and producer over master recordings, musical compositions, musical instruments, merchandise, trademarks and more. Petty Unlimited alleges that by failing to fund the LLC, Dana is “usurping” its business opportunities to exploit Petty’s assets for “her own personal gain and advantage.” 

Tom Petty died on October 2, 2017, of an accidental drug overdose. He was 66 years old.