More trouble for Kinkade

Jeff Spinello opened his Kinkade-based gallery on the Downtown Mall in May 1999 and closed it in November 2003.

There's more trouble for Thomas Kinkade, the famous "painter of light" artist whose mega-million-dollar empire got into some serious trouble for its dealings with a Charlottesville business owner, among others.

In addition to losing a key arbitration decision in February, Kinkade may be now facing an FBI investigation, according to an August 29 report in the L.A. Times.

"I cannot either confirm or deny the FBI investigation, pending the outcome of our arbitration out in L.A.," says former gallery owner Jeff Spinello this afternoon, when contacted for this story. Spinello, now a real estate agent, alleged that Kinkade's business practices forced the two galleries he and a partner operated in Central Virginia– including one on the Downtown Mall– out of business.

Specifically, they alleged that Kinkade's company undercut galleries by selling prints that wound up at Tuesday Morning discount stores and wouldn't allow returns without significant new purchases of the pricy prints. Kinkade officials blamed the gallery failures on bad business decisions by their own owners.

On February 23, an L.A.-based arbitration panel found that Kinkade's company, then known as Media Arts Group, and one of its executives, Richard F. Barnett, "failed to disclose material information'' that would have dissuaded Spinello and partner Karen Hazlewood from investing $122,000 in 1999 to open the first of their two Thomas Kinkade Signature Galleries. Spinello says he expects a final decision in that arbitration within three weeks. A Kinkade spokesperson alleged "factual inaccuracies" in the L.A. Times report.