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Bitter feud at venerable New York arts club settled

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The former president of New York City's National Arts Club, whose membership roster has included luminaries such as Theodore Roosevelt and Martin Scorsese, will pay $950,000 to settle claims that he misused club funds to lead a lavish lifestyle.

Aldon James was the subject of a lawsuit filed last September by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who alleged that James, his twin brother John and another club member, Steven Leitner, had taken possession of several apartments at the club and filled them with heaps of antiques and clothes, rendering them uninhabitable.

As part of the settlement, the James brothers were permanently barred from serving as an officer, director or fiduciary of any nonprofit in New York state, the attorney general's office said on Wednesday.

The lawsuit accused Aldon James, who served as club president for 25 years, of misusing club funds to pay for travel, expensive meals and numerous purchases at flea markets.

Aside from Aldon agreeing to pay $900,000 to the club and $50,000 to the attorney general's office to cover investigative costs, the James brothers and Leitner will have to vacate the club premises by the end of the month.

The three were expelled from the club last year.

The settlement resolves both the attorney general's action and numerous lawsuits still pending between Aldon James and the club.

The legal wrangling had cast a shadow over the prestigious private club, which overlooks exclusive Gramercy Park in Manhattan.

"Today's settlement allows the club to close the door on years of bitter discord and start to recover from the havoc that Aldon James and his cohorts wrought," Schneiderman said in a statement.

Last year, an appeals court ruled that the club had been within its rights to expel Aldon James based on allegations that his mismanagement had cost the club more than $1.7 million.

Gerald Shargel, an attorney for the three men, said the settlement did not reflect any admission on their part.

"Like any other lawsuit, there may come a time when it makes sense to settle," he said. "There was no admission of wrongdoing of any kind."

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Phil Berlowitz)

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