Books

Rare-Book Dealer Charged After Pilfered Eagles Lyrics Come to Light

In the late 1970s, as the Southern California rock band the Eagles sailed into superstardom, one of the band’s main songwriters generated reams of handwritten lyrics and notes — among them, words to such FM-radio staples as “Hotel California.”

And then, the papers vanished.

Nearly five decades later, Glenn Horowitz, a New York rare-book dealer, and two other men have been charged in State Supreme Court in Manhattan with conspiring to sell about 100 pages of the stolen notes written by an Eagles frontman, Don Henley, to law enforcement and fabricating stories about the provenance of the papers, which are valued at around $1 million.

“This action exposes the truth about music memorabilia sales of highly personal, stolen items hidden behind a facade of legitimacy,” said Irving Azoff, Mr. Henley’s manager. “No one has the right to sell illegally property or profit from the outright theft of irreplaceable pieces of musical history.”

Among those charged is Mr. Horowitz, 66, a prolific dealer who helped create a frothy market in writers’ archives, curating filing cabinets’ worth of manuscripts, drafts, letters and ephemera into a coherent and sellable whole. He placed the papers of Norman Mailer, Gabriel García Márquez, Tom Wolfe, Alice Walker and others in leading university libraries, and also brokered major deals with musicians: In 2016, he sold Bob Dylan’s huge archive to two institutions in Oklahoma for a sum estimated as high as $20 million.

Attorneys for Mr. Horowitz and the other defendants denied the charges. “The DA’s office alleges criminality where none exists and unfairly tarnishes the reputations of well-respected professionals,” they said in a statement. “These men are innocent.”

The indictment is a stunning turn for Mr. Horowitz, a mainstay of the New York City rare book and manuscript market known for mixing keen business sense with deep literary learning and a showman’s flair. A visit to his Midtown office with a terrace overlooking the Museum of Modern Art sculpture garden might feature a glimpse of a choice historical letter, or a jaw-dropping artifact — along with a literary comment that the viewing was off the record.

Mr. Horowitz obtained Mr. Henley’s notes sometime in 2005, according to a news release from Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney. The manuscripts were originally stolen from Mr. Henley in the late 1970s by a writer working on a book about the band, his office said.

The notes include handwritten lyrics to “Hotel California,” the title track of the band’s inescapable 1976 album.

Mr. Henley became aware of the notes’ reappearance when Mr. Horowitz sold them to two other collectors, Craig Inciardi and Edward Kosinski, who then tried to market them further. According to the district attorney’s office, Mr. Henley filed police reports and told the collectors the notes were stolen.

“Rather than making any effort to ensure they actually had rightful ownership, the defendants responded by engaging in a yearslong campaign to prevent Henley from recovering the manuscripts,” the district attorney’s office said.

The men sought to launder the notes through Sotheby’s auction houses and engaged in a five-year effort to hide where the documents had come from, the district attorney’s office said. Mr. Horowitz would later leverage the 2016 death of a second Eagles frontman, Glenn Frey, as possible cover, and suggest he was Mr. Horowitz’s initial source for the papers, according to the news release.

Mr. Frey “alas, is dead, and identifying him as the source would make this go away once and for all,” Mr. Horowitz said in a fabricated statement of provenance after the notes were seized by investigators from a Sotheby’s warehouse, the district attorney’s office said.

Mr. Horowitz was charged with conspiracy, attempted criminal possession of stolen property and hindering prosecution. Mr. Inciardi and Mr. Kosinski were both charged with possessing stolen property and conspiracy.

Alex Traub and Jennifer Schuessler contributed reporting.

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