Bill Graham estate still in the courts

May 2012

Artistes, merchandise

David Graham and Alexander Graham-Sult, the sons of the late rock impresario Bill Graham, who accused their father’s executor Nicholas Clainos, former president of Bill Graham Enterprises,  of cheating them out of millions of dollars’ worth of music memorabilia  have been ordered instead to pay more than $500,000 in legal fees by a judge who found their suit meritless.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in June 2011 that the alleged fraud was actually an above-board transaction that had been disclosed to the sons’ lawyer in 1997. She also said the suit was filed more than a decade too late. Now Judge Wilken has ordered Graham’s sons to pay $146,000 to Clainos, $240,000 to a law firm that had represented Graham’s estate, and $138,000 to the Bill Graham Archives, another defendant in their lawsuit. The Judge said that the suit had no chance of success and targeted Clainos’ legally protected actions as Graham’s executor. The sons have now asked the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn her ruling, arguing in court papers that they were “victims of a cynical, fraudulent scheme”  to deprive them of the memorabilia including 100 sets of original posters of such performers as Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones.

Graham, a pre-eminent figure in rock music for a quarter century and promoter of the US Live Aid concert, died in a helicopter crash near Vallejo in October 1991 at age 60. His sons, David, then 23, and Alexander, 14, inherited nearly $10 million apiece from a $36 million estate after a 3 1/2-year battle among his survivors, overseen by Clainos.

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