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Grateful Dead guitar deal reached


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A tentative agreement over the disposition of four famous guitars used by rock icon Jerry Garcia has been reached between Grateful Dead Productions and former Rohnert Park-based woodworker Doug Ir-win.

"We've reached an agreement in principle; the parties are confident this is over," Grateful Dead attorney Eric Doney said yesterday.

"Everyone has agreed to it. All we have to do now is sign the final papers," said Doug Long, an attorney representing Irwin.

Under the agreement, Irwin would keep two of the guitars - commonly referred to as Wolf and Tiger because of the designs inlaid on them. The Grateful Dead would retain ownership of the other two - known as Rosebud and Headless.

Garcia, who died in 1995, bequeathed the guitars to Irwin, who built the instruments for the Dead bandleader from 1973 to 1990. But Grateful Dead Productions, the Novato-based company representing the surviving band members, claimed the company paid for the instruments, and that they were not Garcia's to give away.

In March, Irwin sued for custody of the guitars, estimated to be worth millions of dollars on the collectors' market.

"It was just, in the view of all the parties, time to move on," Doney said. "The Grateful Dead have always intended that Doug Irwin be cared for in some manner. It was just a question of the conflicting desire to keep the guitars in one collection to display for the fans."

Grateful Dead Productions had previously argued that Irwin's suit should be dismissed because the three-year statute of limitations had expired on his claim. The court denied that motion in August.

Doney said the location of a fifth guitar named in Irwin's suit is unknown.

"We don't have it," he said. Garcia's will said Irwin is entitled to the guitars he made, but didn't specify the number or names of the instruments, Doney said.

News of the tentative deal came in the courtroom of Marin Superior Court Judge Michael Dufficy. A hearing scheduled for yesterday to determine if the remainder of Garcia's estate, some $6.9 million, can be distributed to a host of beneficiaries was postponed until Nov. 7.

Irwin's attorneys are seeking to delay the distribution until after ownership of the guitars has been resolved. Under the terms of Garcia's will, the estate taxes on the guitars are to be paid out of the residue of the estate.

So far, $400,000 from the estate has been set aside to cover those taxes and other items. Irwin's attorneys, however, believe the tax on the guitars could exceed that amount. Grateful Dead Productions is not involved in that debate, Doney said.

Dufficy said he will issue a preliminary decision on the tax matter on Friday.

By Richard Halstead

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