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Sunday 22 October 2017

Audrey Hepburn's eldest son sued by children's charity bearing star's name

Audrey Hepburn at the 1992 Oscars ceremony (AP)
Audrey Hepburn at the 1992 Oscars ceremony (AP)

Audrey Hepburn's eldest son is being sued by a children's charity he helped establish in his mother's name.

The Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund is suing Sean Ferrer in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming he has interfered with its plans to exhibit several of the Oscar winner's high fashion dresses and other memorabilia.

The exhibitions are the primary source of money for the charity, which supports children's centres in hospitals in Los Angeles and New Orleans and a centre in New Jersey.

Mr Ferrer and his half-brother Luca Dotti established the fund after their mother's death, along with their mother's longtime companion, Dutch actor Robert Wolders.

Mr Dotti is currently the charity's chairman.

The siblings are embroiled in a separate court dispute over division of jewellery, property and other items their mother left to them after her death in January 1993.

The lawsuit says that while only one brother has to give permission to display the items, Mr Ferrer has threatened litigation over planned exhibits in Korea and China and also restricted the charity's access to its website.

The lawsuit claims Mr Ferrer's actions may force the charity to stop operations and could "irreparably damage the sterling reputation of the late Audrey Hepburn".

Mr Ferrer, who once ran the charity but stepped aside several years ago, has interfered with potential exhibitions of some of Hepburn's Givenchy dresses in China and Korea, the lawsuit states.

"The fund is seeking to continue to raise funds in the same way it has done for more than two decades," its lawyer Steven Young said.

In 2013 the charity made 30,000 dollars (£24,000) in donations to children's hospitals in Los Angeles and New Orleans, according to the most recent tax records available.

The records show the foundation's revenues declined from 290,000 dollars (£232,000) the previous year to 223,000 (£178,400) in 2013.

Wednesday's lawsuit comes 18 months after Mr Ferrer sued Mr Dotti seeking to divide up ownership of jewellery, property, a vintage movie poster collection and other memorabilia Hepburn left to her sons.

Lawyers for both men reported to a judge in November that negotiations over the items had been productive, but no settlement or resolution has been announced.

Mr Young said Wednesday's lawsuit and the dispute over other items that belonged to Hepburn were not connected.

Hepburn won an Academy Award in 1954 for Roman Holiday and was awarded the film academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1993.

She died before that year's Oscars ceremony, so Mr Ferrer accepted it in her honour and summarised his mother's commitment to helping children.

"She believed every child has the right to health, to hope, to tenderness and to life," he said during the ceremony, according to a transcript on the film academy's website.

"On her behalf I dedicate this to the children of the world."

AP

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