Tom Clancy’s Widow Sues Over Rights to Jack Ryan Character

BALTIMORE (CN) — Debuting what she calls the “second chapter” of settling Tom Clancy’s estate, the prolific author’s widow asked a federal judge to confirm that she owns the rights to the iconic character Jack Ryan.

Jack Ryan first appeared in Clancy’s 1984 book “The Hunt for Red October,” which was made into a successful 1990 Hollywood thriller starring Alec Baldwin as the spy.

“Tom Clancy made Jack Ryan; and in a sense, Jack Ryan made Tom Clancy,” the complaint states, filed on Aug. 25 in Baltimore City Circuit Court..

Before his death in October 2013, Clancy saw a number of his books turned into commercially successful films, including  “Patriot Games,” “Clear and Present Danger,” and “The Sum of All Fears.”

Alexandra Clancy filed the latest suit against J.W. Thompson Webb, the personal representative of the Estate of Thomas Clancy Jr., Jack Ryan Enterprises Ltd., a 40 percent stake of which belongs to the author’s first wife, Wanda King. Jack Ryan LP is also named as a defendant.

At the heart of the lawsuit is whether King is entitled to any money generated by the posthumous books, which include not just Jack Ryan novels but also the so-called “Campus” book series starring Ryan’s son, Jack Ryan Jr., and his nephew, Dominic Caruso.

The legal battle over Clancy’s books stretches back for nearly three decades  — all were initiated by either the author or one of his two wives.

Unlike past cases, however, the case at hand is not about any book Clancy penned himself but rather the contracts signed with J.P. Putnam’s Sons in 2014 and 2015 for posthumous novels that continue the Jack Ryan series, written in Clancy’s style, but by other people.

Clancy’s widow says Baltimore attorney J.W. Thompson “Topper” Webb arranged for the two Jack Ryan entities to profit from those contracts.

Webb’s attorney, Robert Brennan, says they expect to prevail in court.

“Mr. Webb has acted at all times in a manner consistent with his obligations as personal representative of Mr. Clancy’s estate,” Brennan said in a statement. “As explained in submissions made by Mr. Webb in the Orphans’ Court for Baltimore City, Mr. Webb believes the copyright to the character ‘Jack Ryan’ is owned by Jack Ryan Enterprises Ltd., a conclusion shared by Mr. Clancy’s long-time copyright lawyer.”

Alexandra Clancy accuses Webb of violating his fiduciary duties by “inexplicably favoring” the two Ryan entities. She wants a judge to declare that the Jack Ryan character belongs exclusively to the Clancy estate.

Attorney Brennan meanwhile quoted Webb as rejecting “the assertions made by Mrs. Clancy’s attorneys in the recently filed complaint.”

“Mr. Webb looks forward to the court’s resolution of the matter and will act on behalf of Mr. Clancy’s estate in accordance with the court’s decision,” Brennan added.

Under the terms of Clancy’s will, his estate benefits Alexandra Clancy, the couple’s young daughter, and the four adult children of King and Tom Clancy.

If a judge rules in Alexandra Clancy’s favor, the proceeds will be divided among those six people. But if the judge denies her request for a declaratory judgment, King will benefit from the proceeds of the books.

Lansing Palmer, an attorney for Clancy’s widow with the New York law firm Akerman LLP, declined to comment on the suit.

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