FARRELL, Pa. — Industrialist Victor Posner has agreed to return 13 Norman Rockwell paintings he took from Sharon Steel Corp. after buying the company in 1969.
The announcement in U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Warren Bentz's courtroom last week by Robert Cindrich, a Posner attorney, was the company chairman's first response to a lawsuit seeking return of the paintings.
James W. Toren, a trustee appointed by the court to run Sharon Steel during its Chapter 11 reorganization, filed the suit June 3. As bankruptcy trustee, Toren controls the company's assets, including the paintings.
The paintings depicting scenes from Sharon's plant in Farrell, have hung in Posner's Miami Beach office for nearly 20 years.
Rockwell, best known for his folksy Saturday Evening Post cover illustrations, was 72 and nearing the end of his career when Sharon Steel paid him $50,000 in 1966 to do 14 illustrations. He died in 1978.
Although agreeing to return 13 works, Cindrich said Posner does not have the 14th painting mentioned in Toren's lawsuit. Russell Ober Jr., an attorney for Toren, said he will file a claim in court holding Posner responsible for the work.
None of the attorneys could estimate the value of the paintings. A single Rockwell illustration for a light bulb manufacturer recently sold at auction for $200,000, said Linda Russell, an assistant curator at the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass.
In February, Posner pleaded no contest to income tax fraud for allegedly inflating the value of a land donation. He was sentenced to finance a $3-million program on homelessness.