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Charities Win in Settlement of Suit Against Diana Fund

November 11, 2004|Debora Vrana | Times Staff Writer

A memorial fund for Princess Diana agreed Wednesday to earmark $25 million for charitable causes to settle a lawsuit brought against the fund by Franklin Mint -- a commemoratives marketer owned by Los Angeles businessman Stewart Resnick and his wife, Lynda.

Funds from the court settlement, reached just days before the case was to go to trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court, will be funneled to humanitarian projects chosen by both sides in the dispute and geared toward causes favored by the late princess, such as land-mine removal, according to a joint statement from the Franklin Mint and the London-based Princess of Wales Memorial fund.

Resnick, a corporate farmer, philanthropist and art collector who bought the Philadelphia-based Franklin Mint in 1985 for $167 million, could not be reached for comment.

The legal battle began in 1998, when the memorial fund filed a trademark suit to stop the Franklin Mint from selling memorabilia of Princess Diana, who died the year before in a Paris car accident. The items included a commemorative plate, a Princess of Diana purse and the Princess Diana Porcelain Bride Doll, currently priced at $195 on the Franklin Mint website. In its suit, the fund accused the Resnicks of "profiting from the death of Diana."

That suit was later dismissed. But in 2002, the Resnicks and the Franklin Mint filed a suit alleging that the memorial fund and the executors of Diana's estate, including her sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, had acted maliciously by initiating the trademark action.

Settling the 2002 lawsuit will allow the memorial fund -- which was set up as a clearinghouse for the millions of dollars in donations that flowed in after Diana's death -- to resume distributing humanitarian grants after having its funds frozen for two years during the legal battle.

In Wednesday's statement, Andrew Purkis, the memorial fund's chief executive, said the settlement was the best way to honor the princess' memory.

Lawyers for the two sides could not be reached for comment.

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