Court dismisses Frank Lloyd Wright furniture lawsuit after SC Johnson reaches settlement

MarketsAssociated Press

Home products giant SC Johnson reached a settlement with a California man in a dispute over ownership of a desk and chair designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but the private terms of the deal mean it's not clear who will end up with the distinctive and valuable furniture.

SC Johnson, which is based south of Milwaukee in Racine, sued Sotheby's auction house and Thomas Figge, of California, after the auction house listed the furniture for sale in 2013.

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Wright designed SC Johnson's Administration Building in the 1930s and created furnishings for it. The desk made of enameled steel and American black walnut has horizontal "speed" lines that give it a distinctive, streamlined look, according to court documents. It is painted a deep red and has rounded drawers that swing outward in a cascade. The blue upholstery on the accompanying chair indicates it was used in the company's records department, the documents said.

The chair and desk were among multiple copies produced for SC Johnson. The company said in its lawsuit that it hasn't sold or loaned any items designed by Wright except in a few, well-documented cases to museums. It said it had no record of a gift to the people named in the ownership history provided by Sotheby's, believed the items rightfully belonged to SC Johnson and wanted them returned.

Court documents show the lawsuit was dismissed Oct. 8 because a settlement had been reached. The terms weren't disclosed.

John Cahill, a lawyer representing Figge, said Tuesday in an email that the settlement was confidential and declined to comment on it. Figge bought the furniture in 2002 from a previous owner, according to court documents.

Representatives for Sotheby's and SC Johnson did not immediately return messages inquiring about the settlement.