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Annual Report Becomes Limited Edition Artwork

April 22, 1986|DANIEL AKST | Times Staff Writer

In perhaps the ultimate marriage of commerce and art, a Van Nuys-based company is publishing its annual report as a numbered, limited edition of 5,500, with a print of six Andy Warhol paintings of colorful dollar signs on the cover.

The company, Martin Lawrence Limited Editions, will destroy the plates after the reports are printed so that no others can be made, just as it would with any limited edition, Chairman Martin Blinder said.

Martin Lawrence decided on a numbered edition to emphasize its business: It publishes art prints and owns a chain of mostly suburban art galleries in Southern California, the Philadelphia area and northern New Jersey.

"This is the first time I've heard of a company that put out a limited edition annual report," said Richard Lewis, chairman of Corporate Annual Reports Inc., a New York company that produces 20 or 30 reports a year for big companies. "It's kind of a cute idea."

Print of 6 Paintings

Blinder said his report's cover is a print of the six paintings in Warhol's 1982 "Dollar Sign" series, which the company bought within the last six months. The pop artist has done a number of dollar-sign paintings, one of which was on the cover of Forbes magazine last year.

"He's definitely commercially conscious; he makes no bones about it," Blinder said. "Andy Warhol and dollar signs are almost synonymous."

Warhol supplied the paintings for the annual report cover as part of a deal with Martin Lawrence in which he is to provide 50 to 75 paintings and a series of limited-edition prints for the company to sell. Neither Blinder nor Vincent Fremont, vice president of Andy Warhol Enterprises in New York, would say how much Warhol is being paid. Blinder, however, put the retail value of the paintings and prints at $2 million to $3 million.

Although most annual reports are almost standardized collections of corporate euphemism and financial data, there is some innovation going on. Reports on videotape are old hat by now--they still must be accompanied by printed matter--and McCormick Co., which makes spices, issues scented reports.

No Problem With Law

Daniel Donahue, a staff attorney with the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Los Angeles, said the limited edition annual report will not run afoul of federal regulations because companies are required only to give copies to shareholders. Martin Lawrence had 1,100 shareholders as of April 10.

Although it may be the first limited edition annual report, Martin Lawrence's 1985 report isn't necessarily valuable. Carmen Kummer, a print expert at Christie's auction house in New York, said the reports probably would not be salable unless Warhol did the printing himself. He didn't, Blinder acknowledged.

Fremont said he does not think that Warhol's art has been on any other annual reports. Warhol was traveling abroad and could not be reached.

When it comes to the contents of Martin Lawrence's annual report, the picture isn't very bright: The company earned a relatively scant $266,000 on revenue of $6.0 million last year.

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