Leonard Cohen’s children and heirs, Lorca and Adam Cohen, have filed a motion accusing the legendary singer-songwriter’s former manager, Robert Kory, and his legal representatives of forgery and asking the court to remove him from the role of trustee, to compel him to turn over the estate’s assets, and return the money he has earned from his activity in that role.
The motion, which follows a probate petition filed last fall, cites a deposition wherein Kory’s former attorney admits to removing a page from Cohen’s signed trust after the singer’s death and replacing it with one stating that Kory is the primary trustee — a felony.
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It quotes Kory as placing the blame for the forgery on his former attorney, Reeve Chudd, whom he claims “modified a document unbeknownst to anybody”; the motion says Kory’s claims “strain credulity.” In the past, Kory has blamed a “scrivener’s error” for the discrepancy between the drafts of Cohen’s trust documents. He has noted that he has invested tremendous time and energy into generating returns for the estate that have made Adam and Lorca “enormously wealthy.” A trial is scheduled for March 29 in Los Angeles.
The motion seeks to have the court confirm that Kory is not a trustee and has no right to act in that capacity, and to have Lorca and Adam Cohen take over the trust and be paid back the money Kory earned from acting as trustee.
Central to those earnings is a 2022 deal, negotiated by Kory, wherein Hipgnosis Songs acquired the rights to 278 songs and derivatives written by Cohen for an amount cited in an earlier court document as $58 million, including such songs as “Hallelujah,” “Suzanne,” “Bird on the Wire” and others; the lawsuit states that Cohen was “dying and heavily medicated” when he signed a July 2016 agreement that granted Kory a 15% commission on such a sale.
Cohen died in November of 2016 at the age of 82, after a battle with cancer.
As quoted in the motion, Kory claims he did not look at or read trust documents before signing them; the heirs say even if that’s true, it is further evidence that he is not suited to be trustee. The motion also claims that Kory backdated a document enabling him, as purported trustee, to stage and profit from an exhibition and book of Cohen’s drawings, poetry and other ephemera at the Art Gallery of Ontario, claiming the trust solely owned the materials, when they are actually owned by the heirs and the trust. It also claims that Kory paid himself and others, including his son, hundreds of thousands of dollars to store and maintain Cohen’s archive. The exhibition opened in December and is scheduled to run through April.
While the two parties have been involved in legal disputes for several months, the information and admission regarding the forged document is a new development. The motion accuses Kory of wrongfully entering into business ventures and agreements on behalf of the Trust without Adam’s and Lorca’s consent; of refusing to provide Adam and Lorca with material information regarding those transactions; of misappropriating assets owned by an entity that Adam and Lorca control and transferring those assets to the Trust, and refusing to distribute Trust assets worth tens of millions of dollars to the heirs’ trusts “in order to continue to wrongfully enrich himself.”
The lawsuit quotes Chudd, Kory’s former attorney, from a deposition filed by the Cohens’ attorney Adam Streisand that includes the following exchanges:
Q. Now, Leonard Cohen did not sign this version of the restatement of the Leonard Cohen Family Trust; correct?
A. That is correct.
Q. And if you take a look at the next page, PET 1-28, you see your notarization of Leonard Cohen’s signatures, right?
Q. You did not notarize Leonard Cohen’s signatures to this version of the restatement of the Leonard Cohen Family Trust, right?
A. Yes. It was a horrible mistake on my part to create this document.
*** Q. Obviously, Leonard Cohen never knew about the existence of Exhibit 1; correct?
Q. Because you created this document after Leonard Cohen’s death; correct?
A. That is correct.
*** Q. How did you physically create this document?
A. I substituted pages in the original document.
Q. Which pages did you substitute?
A. I’m not sure but obviously the one containing 3.2.
Q. Did you draft the page with paragraph 3.2 that we just looked at in Exhibit 1 after Leonard Cohen’s death?
A. Yes, I did.
The motion claims “There is no valid instrument by Leonard designating Kory to serve in that capacity. Since Leonard’s death in 2016, Kory has been holding himself out as trustee and exercising control over the Trust and its assets solely on the basis of forgery and fraud.”
The lawsuit details several alterations to Cohen’s Restatement of the Trust, beginning in 2005, initially naming his two children and his ex-girlfriend, Anjani Thomas, as successor co-trustees, and then later that year replacing them with Kory, his longtime manager, as sole first successor trustee and his children as second successor trustees.
However, in July 2016, Cohen revoked the amendments and reinstated Adam, Lorca and Thomas as trustees. In October 2016, less than a month before his death, the singer “wrote to Kory,” the motion states, “lamenting that he had given Kory far too much control over his affairs.” At a deposition on Feb. 8, 2023, Chudd confessed under oath that he had “created a forgery of Leonard’s 2005 Restatement” that “purports to designate Kory as the successor trustee based on a false Section 3.2 that Chudd drafted after Leonard’s death,” the motion states.
Variety has reached out to Kory for comment and will have more on the situation as it develops.
Additional reporting by Gene Maddaus.
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