Radio and TV talker Michael Smerconish is suing a Main Line art gallery for allegedly selling him a phony signed photo of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
In the civil suit filed Monday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, Smerconish claims he purchased what he thought was an original copy of Yousuf Karsh's famous 1941 photo of Churchill from Arader Galleries of Philadelphia (1308 Walnut St.) Arader, the largest rare-book and print dealer in the world, also has branches in King of Prussia, New York City and San Francisco.
The CNN host claims that when he bought the photo in 2000, the gallery owner duped him by producing a certificate of authenticity guaranteeing that the portrait was autographed by Churchill himself during World War II. Smerconish says that when went to get the photo restored and had it looked at by an antique expert, he was told the photo was a copy with a forged signature.
Smerconish wants his money back, and it appears he's getting no push-back from the gallery owner.
"I've never had anything like this happen to me once in all my years," said gallery owner Graham Arader, reached by phone yesterday. "We've been humbled and beaten by the great power that Mr. Smerconish has."
Arader claims he has no record of a sale to Smerconish, but "they asked for $5,000 and we'll give them $5,000 to settle this matter."
Arader called this situation "particularly strange" because he said he's not in the business of selling signed photographs and has no recollection of having any art relating to Churchill, but the legal fees alone to fight the suit would create a greater financial burden than a settlement.
"I spend all my time giving my money away," said Arader. "I'm happy to give some away to Mr. Smerconish. I've been put in my place."