Successful Hollywood Actor Fails to Sell Kentucky Horse-Farm

By: Faith Gingrich-Goetz

Though Johnny Depp is most well-known for his starring roles in movies, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and more, in 1995, he took on a different role: Kentucky horse farm owner.[i] Depp owned the farm from 1995 to 2001, when he sold the property for $1 million, only to buy it back in 2005 for $2 million.[ii] The farm features a main ranch house that haswith 6 bedrooms and 6.5 bathrooms, a guesthouse, and many more farm and equestrian buildings.[iii] Working with Halfhill Auction Group, on September 15, 2017, Depp held an auction on September 15, 2017, to try to sell the 41.32-acre horse farm for $2.9 million.[iv]


The timing of this auction suggests that it may be related to recent legal complications that Depp has been facing withregarding his former money managers.[v] Despite earning between $10-20 million per film, Depp found himself to be $40 million in debt, asserting that his fortune was mismanaged by his former money managers.[vi] These managers are currently under investigation by three federal agencies for fraud and money laundering.[vii] Prior to the investigations starting, Depp sued the money management firm for $25 million in January 2017.[viii] Though Depp appeared desperate to sell the horse-farm, the auctioneer failed to get the property sold at the auction held on September 15, 2017.[ix]

In general, an auctioneer owes a “basic duty of competence and fairness to the seller.”[x] The auctioneer is an agent of the seller and has a duty to represent the seller reasonably.[xi] With this in mind, Halfhill Auction Group did not accept the highest bid placed on Depp’s farm, $1.4 million-, less than half of what was being asked.[xii] However, notably, under Kentucky law, in auctions or sales related to equine under Kentucky law, the auctioneer is considered a “dual agent,” meaning they not only owe a duty to the seller, but also to the buyer.[xiii] This means if any of Depp’s horses were also being auctioned in addition to the farm, the auctioneer owed a duty to not only Depp, but to the buyer as well.[xiv] Furthermore, under Kentucky law, if the auctioneer was the principal broker, this means that they would also be considered a “dual agent,” and have a duty to both the seller and the buyer.[xv] Given these statutes, it seems that Depp’s auctioneer was not acting completelyfailed to act “reasonably” for Depp, who has beenis in a heated multi-million dollar legal battle with his previous money managers;, nor does it seem that Depp’s auctioneer was acting “reasonably” for the potential buyer who placed the highest bid at the auction.

[i] Mark David, A Kentucky Horse Farm Owned by Johnny Depp Heads to Auction, (Aug, 30, 2017, 12:09 PM),

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] Id.

[v] Id.

[vi] Id.

[vii] Rachel Cao, Johnny Depp’s Ex-Business Managers Face Federal Probes for Fraud, (Aug. 15, 2017, 3:01 PM),

[viii] Id.

[ix] Taysha Murtaugh, Johnny Depp’s Kentucky-Farm Failed to Sell at Auction, Country (Sep. 20, 2017),

[x] Duties of Auctioneer,, (last visited Nov. 2, 2017).

[xi] Id.

[xii] Cao, supra note vii.

[xiii] Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 230.357 (LexisNexisJun. 26, 2007).

[xiv] Id.

[xv] Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 324.121 (LexisNexisJun. 25, 2009).