A New York literary agent is seeking millions in damages in a lawsuit against Chip and
the home renovation couple who made farmhouse chic a major trend.
The breach-of-contract lawsuit, filed Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court, alleges the Gaineses amended the terms of a five-book publishing deal with a $12.5 million advance brokered for them by Vigliano Associates without the consent of their then-literary agent,
The contract alterations allegedly deprived Vigliano Associates of some fees and other earnings spelled out in the original deal and reduced the number of books from five to four, the lawsuit said. It also took an option for a sixth book off the table, the suit said.
Vigliano Associates is seeking damages as determined at trial, based on earnings of the disputed books, the suit said. It has requested, at a minimum, no less than $1 million.
The lawsuit names the Waco, Texas-based couple, their business enterprises C&J Gaines Limited Co. and Magnolia Brands LLC, and their management company, United Talent Agency, as defendants.
Representatives for the Gaineses and their businesses and UTA didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Vigliano’s lawyer,
said the contract dispute stems from the break between the Gaineses and their previous management company, Westport Entertainment Associates LLC.
Westport Entertainment had acted as Mrs. Gaines’s management company in the original 2017 publishing deal, which was negotiated by Vigliano Associates, Mr. Hutcher said. His client was a third-party beneficiary in the contract between the Gaineses and HarperCollins.
“The Gaines entered into a contract amendment that we didn’t agree to that reduced the books from five to four and then eliminated the option [for a sixth book],” said Mr. Hutcher, of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP.
“Our client did the work,” he said. “He’s entitled to be paid for that.”
HarperCollins and Westport Entertainment didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Chip and Joanna Gaines became reality-TV stars with the success of “Fixer Upper,” which ran on HGTV from 2013 to 2018. They have since launched “Magnolia” brands in furniture, books, real estate, magazines, a television network and more.
Vigliano Associates, a boutique agency that has worked on projects from celebrities including
had previously represented the couple in a two-book deal in 2015, the lawsuit said.
In the 2017 publishing deal, HarperCollins agreed to a $12.5 million advance for five books to be written by Mrs. Gaines, consisting of two cookbooks and three nonfiction books, according to the court documents. HarperCollins, like The Wall Street Journal, is owned by News Corp.
Vigliano Associates is entitled to 7.5% of the total advances, bonuses and royalties that Mrs. Gaines received for each book, the lawsuit said.
Intellectual property lawyer
Fran Perdomo Klukosky,
who isn’t involved in the suit, said generally in the publishing industry, the agent who negotiates a book publishing deal receives royalties for as long as the author does under that agreement.
Mrs. Gaines wrote and published the first two books before the couple left Westport Entertainment, according to the suit. Both books made the
Mrs. Gaines and her husband retained UTA as their new management company in 2019 as the couple were preparing to launch their Magnolia Network, an ambitious expansion of their home and lifestyle offerings.
UTA and the couple then amended the terms of the original contract between HarperCollins and Mrs. Gaines to a four-book deal, the lawsuit said. The amendment also substituted
as the sole author of one of the remaining books, the suit said.
Mrs. Gaines hasn’t published the fourth book, the suit said.
Write to Ginger Adams Otis at [email protected]
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