Tom Petty's Widow Files New Appeals Against Daughters in Escalating Battle Over Late Rocker's Trust

Mark Seliger 
Tom Petty

In the filings, Dana Petty seeks permission to fund the LLC Tom Petty Legacy with the singer's assets -- over the protests of his two daughters.

Tom Petty’s widow Dana Petty has submitted new appeals in her ongoing legal battle with the late rocker’s daughters Adria Petty and Annakim Violette, according to documents filed in Los Angeles County court on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In two separate petitions, Dana asks the court to deny a previous petition filed by Adria demanding that Dana immediately fund Petty Unlimited, an LLC set up to receive assets (a.k.a. “artistic property”) from Petty’s trust. Instead, Dana wants to fund and execute an operating agreement for Tom Petty Legacy, a separate LLC that she established on her own.

In Adria's petition filed in April, she accused Dana of withholding Petty’s assets from Petty Unlimited in order to keep her and Annakim from "participat[ing] equally” in the management of those assets, as stipulated in the trust. Adria further claimed that under the terms of the trust, Dana was required to fund Petty Unlimited within six months of Petty’s death, but that she missed the deadline.

Dana's new petitions dispute that characterization, instead claiming that as “sole successor trustee” of Petty’s trust, she is “exclusively authorized” to form any entity of her choosing to be the beneficiary of Petty’s assets so long as all three women are given equal participation in its management. She claims that the trust does not specify Petty Unlimited as the only entity that can receive the assets and that the LLC therefore has no legal rights to them. She further argues that the trust does not specify a time frame within which the LLC must be funded, contending that it “defies logic” to interpret the terms of the trust that way given the “size and complexity” of Petty’s estate.

The new petitions additionally contend that even if there were a six month deadline in place, Adria in particular has been complicating the process of funding Petty Unlimited despite Dana’s best efforts to negotiate an operating agreement for the LLC.

“Dana attempted over and over again to solicit the Daughters to work together toward an operating agreement that all would find acceptable,” the May 29 petition reads. “On multiple occasions, Dana would accommodate demands by Adria, redraft the operating agreement wholesale to do so, and attempt for months to get Adria to respond only to be faced with a new and completely different demand.”

Both petitions go even further in making allegations of “foul behavior” on Adria’s part, stating that the 44-year-old has “caused enormous damage to many of Tom’s professional relationships” via a series of letters (allegedly sent by Adria’s lawyer Alex Weingarten) that “threaten[ed] everyone whom Tom worked with for decades: his record labels, his music lawyer David Altschul…even Tom’s longtime accountant.” Dana alleges that these threats led Altschul, who was then representing her, to resign. She also claims Adria has been “abusive” and “slander[ous]” towards several other individuals in Petty’s orbit including his longtime business manager Bernie Gudvi, his estate planning attorney Burton Mitchell and members of his band the Heartbreakers.

“In truth, Dana has bent over backwards to involve [Adria and Annakim] despite their repeatedly unconscionable behavior…even though Dana had no obligation to do so until it is time for distribution of the Trust’s assets to beneficiaries,” reads the May 29 petition. “In return, Daughters responded with abuse, threats and lawsuits.”

“Dana Petty would have done almost anything to avoid all of this,” said Dana’s lawyer Adam Streisand in a statement to Billboard. “Over the past weeks and months, however, the behavior of her stepdaughters Adria and Annakim has gone from unconscionable to unhinged -- and it needs to be stopped.”

As she did in her previous petition, Dana again accuses Adria and Annakim of interfering in and in some cases delaying the release of several posthumous releases of Petty’s Music, including the 2018 box set An American Treasure, the 2019 greatest hits collection The Best of Everything and a 25th anniversary reissue of Petty’s 1994 solo album Wildflowers. She also accuses Adria of demanding the establishment of a Los Angeles-based Tom Petty business office for her own use, only to subsequently “abandon” the office by moving to New York, “thus burden[ing] the Trust with tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary rent for twelve months.”

The new petitions additionally address the lawsuit filed on May 15 in which Dana, Petty Unlimited’s designated estate manager Lawrence Jenkins (and his company LJ Entertainment), Petty’s longtime manager Anthony Dimitriades and Petty’s social media and merchandising manager Alan Arora were sued for breach of fiduciary duty, unfair competition, unjust enrichment and more on behalf of Petty Unlimited. That suit, which was filed by Adria and Annakim’s lawyers (including Weingarten) at the Los Angeles-based law firm Venable, alleged that Dana set up the separate LLC, Tom Petty Legacy, “as a vehicle through which to deprive” Petty Unlimited of Petty’s assets.

In response, Dana claims allegations that she “ran off with the intellectual property in the name of Legacy for Dana’s alleged sole pecuniary benefit is another total fabrication intended to garner some cheap media attention.”

Dana further asserts that Petty Unlimited is now “inappropriate” as an entity to receive Petty’s assets because, she alleges, Adria and Annakim meant it as a vehicle to cut her out of decisions involving the estate once negotiations over an operating agreement for the LLC broke down. She accuses the sisters of using threats of legal action -- and eventually the lawsuit they filed against her on May 15 -- to essentially scare her into funding Petty Unlimited and thereby cut her out of equal participation in the management of the estate.

“Suddenly, Adria and Annakim determined unadvisedly and incorrectly that if Dana funded Petty Unlimited without an operating agreement, they could rule it under California Corporations Code default rules by majority rule,” the May 29 petition reads. “In other words, they decided to exploit Dana’s good faith in creating Petty Unlimited prior to consensus on an operating agreement to their own benefit and the total exclusion and disadvantage of Dana.”

Moreover, Dana claims that as trustee of Petty’s trust, she is sole owner of Petty Unlimited and that Adria and Annakim (and by extension their lawyers) have been “masquerading” as its rightful representatives. The petition notes that Dana has since executed documents to remove Adria and Annakim as managers of the LLC and “fired” the Venable law firm as its representative.

The petition concedes that equal participation in the management of Petty’s assets between Dana, Adria and Annakim is required under the terms of the trust, but that Dana has sole power to decide on a governance structure for the entity that is eventually funded with those assets. Now that negotiations with Adria and Annakim have deteriorated, she is attempting to assert her “broad discretion” in determining that structure without their input.

“Although [Dana] did everything in her power to treat Adria and Annakim as family, sadly, they, and in particular Adria, have repeatedly demonstrated their resentment over their father’s love of [Dana] and her role in his life,” the May 28 petition reads. “It is now clear that their intent is to eliminate [Dana] from Tom’s legacy.”

Under the operating agreement laid out in her May 28 petition, Dana appoints Jenkins as the professional manager of Tom Petty Legacy and requires “consensus for significant decisions” involving Petty’s estate. “Otherwise,” the petition reads, “the opportunity of the majority [Adria and Annakim]…to abuse and exclude [Dana’s] minority position, which will inevitably lead to endless litigation, would be a virtual certainty.”

The operating agreement also requires Dana, Adria and Annakim to “work cooperatively” with Petty’s ex-wife (and Adria and Annakim’s mother) Jane Petty in matters involving the 50% of the publishing rights she owns for music created during their marriage. It further cedes all “day-to-day” decisions on the estate to Jenkins.

In response to Dana’s latest petitions, Adria and Annakim’s lawyer Alex Weingarten told Billboard, “Dana and her lawyer are basing their case on smoke and mirrors.  Every claim they make is demonstrably false.  Adria and Annakim are laser focused on one thing -- honoring and protecting their father’s legacy and enforcing the terms of his trust, as written.”

Petty died of an accidental drug overdose on October 2, 2017, at the age of 66.