The conflict was over ownership of the portrait as the University of Texas at Austin claimed ownership, arguing that Fawcett bequeathed her artwork to the University upon her death. However, O’Neal has asserted in court for the past month – and even testified last week – that the portrait was his closest remaining connection to Fawcett, who passed away four years ago. O’Neal described talking to the portrait and feeling Fawcett’s presence when he addressed the jury. It only took 90 minutes of reviewing the testimony for the 12 jurors to come up with a 9-to-3 verdict favoring O’Neal over the University. Though O’Neal was not in the courtroom when the decision was announced, his sons – Patrick and Redmond O’Neal were there. They reportedly clasped hands and hugged upon learning that their father could keep the portrait.
Though the portrait is worth an estimated $800,000 to $12 million, O’Neal has previously said that he has no intention of selling the artwork. He has said that he wants to hand it down to Fawcett’s only son – Redmond.
From the beginning, O’Neal said that the portrait was a gift from Warhol for arranging the portrait session with Fawcett. A couple of days after Fawcett passed away, O’Neal took the portrait which Warhol produced in 1980 from her condominium – as he had permission to do so from the trustee of Fawcett’s belongings.
Fawcett gave all of her artwork to the University – including a nearly-identical Warhol portrait. The former “Charlie’s Angels” actress and model was O’Neal’s companion for about three decades.
This case has obviously given persons pause before leaving anything to a school or other organization. The University of Texas of Austin fought vehemently to keep O'Neal from getting to keep the one portrait.