LOS ANGELES (CN) – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sued a Beverly Hills auction house this week, claiming it refuses to return 152 items of his memorabilia, including a signed Bruce Lee movie poster.
Abdul-Jabbar sued Julien Entertainment and Julien’s Auction on Tuesday in Superior Court, claiming the auction house is holding items “hostage” because of a legal dispute with KAJ Lifetime Retirement Collection – which Abdul-Jabbar enlisted to negotiate a consignment agreement for his memorabilia.
An exhibit attached to the lawsuit lists the 152 items Abdul-Jabbar wants back, including his jerseys, sweatpants, awards, lithographs and other items. The list includes a signed poster for the 1973 Bruce Lee movie “Game of Death.” The exhibit does not make clear who signed the movie poster. Abdul-Jabbar appeared in the Hong Kong martial arts movie as a character called Hakim. Lee died before the movie was finished.
Abdul-Jabbar claims that KAJ entered into a consignment agreement with Julien’s to auction 400 items but asked that six items not go on the block. Abdul-Jabbar says that those items were never handed over to the auction house.
Julien’s took exception in an arbitration filing for breach of consignment agreement, according to the 9-page lawsuit. In June, a judge sided with Julien’s and awarded it damages. But the arbitrator found that the auctioneer is “‘not entitled to specific performance,'” according to the lawsuit.
“Thus, Julien’s is not permitted to move forward with an auction of any of the items consigned pursuant to the consignment agreement, including the property that unlawfully remains in Julien’s possession,” the complaint states.
But despite multiple demands, Julien’s has refused to return the 152 items of memorabilia, Abdul-Jabbar says.
He says the auction house is “extremely unprofessional and litigious,” though its president and CEO Darren Julien had told him that the auction house was “flexible” and would let him keep hold of “sentimental items.”
“Moreover, despite the fact that Julien’s is not entitled to proceed with an auction, Julien’s has refused to return Mr. Abdul-Jabbar’s personal property and has forced Mr. Abdul-Jabbar to commence this legal action to recover his property. Julien’s is illegally holding hostage Mr. Abdul-Jabbar’s personal property, which he earned over his career, in an attempt to leverage its financial interests against” KAJ Lifetime Retirement Collection, the complaint states.
KAJ Lifetime is not a party to the lawsuit.
Abdul-Jabbar wants his property back, plus compensatory and punitive damages, and costs.
Miles Feldman and Sonia Lee, attorneys at Raines Feldman for Julien’s Auctions, called Abdul-Jabbar’s claims “categorically false.”
Abdul-Jabbar had consigned the items “through his company KAJ Lifetime Retirement Collection” and had “caused his company to breach the consignment agreement by refusing to turn over the bulk of the items consigned, seeking to withdraw items that had been consigned for sale, and ultimately canceling the auction, all after having received a $300,000 advance from Julien’s Auctions,” the lawyers said in an Aug. 1 email to Courthouse News.
Noting that Abdul-Jabbar had refused to return the advance, the firm said Julien’s was left “with no choice but to initiate an arbitration proceeding.”
“Julien’s recently prevailed in that arbitration, with the arbitrator finding that the consignment agreement was valid, binding, and enforceable, and that Mr. Abdul-Jabbar had no right to seek to withdraw any items consigned to Julien’s, or to cancel the auction,” the firm’s email states. “The arbitrator awarded significant damages against Mr. Abdul-Jabbar’s company. Under the consignment agreement, already found to be enforceable, Julien’s has an absolute right to possession of the items consigned until Mr. Abdul-Jabbar satisfies the judgment.”
The firm also noted that Julien’s is pursuing claims against Abdul-Jabbar’s “business associate, Deborah Morales, and her company, Iconomy.”
Julien’s meanwhile has faced legal demands for return of property in the past.
In 2009, Michael Jackson claimed Julien’s had listed 2,000 items for auction before the King of Pop could decide which items he wanted to keep.
In November 2012, Boxing champ Evander Holyfield claimed Julien’s refused to return items from his collection of boxing memorabilia.
The auction house countersued, claiming Holyfield’s lawsuit was frivolous.
Adbul-Jabbar is represented by Evan Smiley, with Weiland, Golden, Smiley, Wang Ekvall & Strok of Costa Mesa.
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