Longtime Universal boss Ron Meyer sues art dealer over ‘forged’ Mark Rothko painting

Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg and Ron Meyer at Ambassadors for Humanity Gala
Ron Howard, left, USC Shoah Foundation founder Steven Spielberg and NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer attend the Ambassadors for Humanity gala benefiting USC Shoah Foundation on Nov. 5, 2018.
(Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)

NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer has filed a $10 million lawsuit against two art dealers, claiming they sold him a forged Mark Rothko painting.

In 2001, Meyer purchased the Rothko for $900,000 from New York dealer Susan Seidel, after another dealer, Jamie Frankfort, introduced them. Frankfort received a 5% commission, or $45,000, for brokering the deal, according to the lawsuit filed this week in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The lawsuit alleges that Seidel misrepresented the work as a signed Rothko to Meyer, falsely claiming that it would be included in the artist’s catalog then in the process of being compiled, and said it had been acquired directly from the seller’s family.

A representative for Seidel could not be reached for comment.

For the past 18 years, the Rothko has hung in Meyer’s California home.

According to the complaint, Meyer learned in January of this year that, “Contrary to the representations of Seidel, known to and approved by Frankfort, the painting is not, in any part, the work of Rothko, but is a total forgery, that it has essentially no value at all, that it had never been accepted for inclusion in the Rothko Catalogue Raisonné and that it had never been owned, possessed, signed or even seen by Rothko or acquired from Rothko by the seller or the seller’s family or anyone else.” As such, the suit contends that the painting “has virtually no value and never will.”


Meyer is seeking damages over $10 million. He could not be reached for comment.

Rothko, a Russian American painter, is known primarily for his abstract canvases. In 2014, “Rothko No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)” sold for $186 million.

The lawsuit follows several other high-profile incidents of art-world “dupes” involving Hollywood heavyweights in recent years.

In 2016, Alec Baldwin sued New York art dealer Mary Boone, claiming that he received a copy of the Ross Bleckner painting “Sea and Mirror,” rather than the original for which he paid $190,000 in 2010. In 2010, the actor received a seven-figure settlement from Boone.

In 2006, two years after actor Steve Martin sold (at a loss) the 1915 Heinrich Campendonk that he bought from a Paris gallery for $850,000, it was discovered to be a fake. Martin had had the painting, “Landscape With Horses,” authenticated but it was later discovered to have been part of a massive German forgery ring.