The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has filed a lawsuit against Heritage Auctions as well as a consignor in their current auction, Whitney Houston’s estate, in an effort to block the sale of her 1986 Emmy Award for “Saving All My Love for You”, which she performed at the Grammy’s. Heritage is fighting the efforts to pull the award from their auction.
Per The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, all Emmy winners sign an agreement which requires their heirs to “return the statuette to the Academy”. The Academy’s position is that the awards are “loans”, not “gifts”, and “[w]hen the Television Academy honors an artist for an achievement, it lends a copy of the Emmy Statuette to the artist to signify and symbolize the honor”, and following the death of an honoree, the Academy “permits the artist’s heirs and successors in interest to retain custody of copies to symbolize the achievements of the deceased honoree”.
Per an article by Page Six, Greg Rohan, President of Heritage Auction Galleries, his company has asked the Academy for proof that the signer agreed to the terms and executed an agreement, but he claims that the Academy had not provided such documentation.
Page Six quotes the following from a statement by Heritage Auction Galleries:
The 1986 Emmy awarded to Whitney Houston was consigned to our auction directly by her family… The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences claims that at the time Ms. Houston received that Emmy statuette she signed an agreement that it would not be sold. We have asked the Academy multiple times to produce that signed agreement but still have not received it.
Why is the Academy now demanding return of Houston’s Emmy when they did not stop over three dozen earlier public auctions of Emmy awards the past decade, almost all of them awarded to white recipients? Based on their behavior thus far, we think the Academy is simply trying to bully the Houston family, and we’re going to stand up for our consignor, regardless of the cost. In addition, Heritage Auctions will donate our entire commission earned on the sale of the Emmy to a charity of the Houston family’s choice.
Radar Online claims to have obtained a letter sent to Heritage Auction Galleries outlining their dispute.
You can read the full lawsuit on Scribd: LINK
You can check out the auction listing on the official Heritage Auctions website: LINK
The position of The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and their Emmy Awards is consistent with that of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and their Academy Awards, though their Oscars awarded after 1950 are legally encumbered and winners and their heirs must give the Academy first right of refusal to buy back the award for a nominal sum; theoretically those awarded prior to 1950 can be sold. Oscar statuettes that have sold in the open market that are not subject to this requirement have sold for large sums of money, even exceeding $1,000,000. Though in one example, AMPAS was able to stop the sale of a 1930 Statue in a jury trial back in 2008.