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Brothers Jimmy and Larry Flynt caught in family feud; Jimmy’s There Only Because of Mom, Says Larry

from – The first time Jimmy Flynt read the letter from his brother last June, he thought it might be some kind of mistake.

“Recent events have clearly placed you in conflict with the interests of Mr. Larry C. Flynt and his companies,” the letter said, referring to Jimmy’s famous brother.

The letter went on to say his brother’s company, which includes Hustler magazine, would eliminate Jimmy’s job, cancel his benefits and confiscate his company-owned Lincoln Town Car.

Jimmy was stunned.

He’d just been fired by his big brother.

The letter set the stage for what has become another long, ugly legal battle for a pair of brothers who have fought many of them over the past four decades.

But this time the Flynts aren’t fighting side by side, as they have since the late 1960s, to protect a pornography business that began with a Cincinnati strip club and grew to include video production, retail stores and a dozen magazines.

This time, they are directing their anger and their lawyers at each other in a showdown that has thrown their family into turmoil and could threaten the future of the company that made them rich.

“It’s real personal,” Jimmy says. “When you’ve lived with someone and shared the good, the bad and the ugly over 40 years, it’s kind of like getting a divorce.”

“I’ve never been through an ordeal like this,” Larry says. “It’s always disappointing when it’s family.”

The fight began about three years ago when Larry fired Jimmy’s two sons, who then launched their own pornography business using the Flynt name. That set off a trademark infringement battle in which Larry argued his nephews were ruining his good name by selling low-quality sex movies under the Flynt banner.

Larry won that round, but the feud was far from over: Larry fired Jimmy. Jimmy sued Larry. And now both are fighting in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court over whether they ever had a legally binding partnership.

“I’m saddened to see this,” says Lou Sirkin, a Cincinnati lawyer who has represented Jimmy and has known Larry for years. “I always hate to see families fighting.”

The Flynts’ detractors, however, enjoy the carnage. They say the feud shouldn’t surprise anyone because the relationship always has been based more on convenience than brotherly love.

In their view, the brothers have stayed together for so long only because they work in a business where they can trust no one else.

“The only relationship they have is strictly business,” says Phil Burress, a longtime foe of the Flynts and the president of the anti-pornography group Citizens for Community Values. “The bottom line is money, and that’s what this is about.”

The brothers concede their relationship never has been idyllic, but both say they’re surprised it has come to this. They have risen and fallen together for decades, facing criminal prosecutions, business troubles, personal tragedies and the shooting that left Larry bound for life to a wheelchair.

Given that history, the brothers say, they didn’t expect to devote their later years to a personal war that could tear apart their family, their company, or both. Larry, who is 67, and Jimmy, 61, both say they can think of better ways to spend their time and money.

“I love my brother,” Jimmy says. “You’d think that after 40 years there would be something you could salvage.”

For now, at least, any salvage operation is in the hands of lawyers.

After he was fired, Jimmy sued his brother to dissolve the partnership he said they have maintained since the first Hustler Club opened in the late 1960s on Walnut Street in Cincinnati.

Jimmy says that club and several others were established under his name because Larry’s past legal troubles made it difficult to get a liquor license. He says many family properties over the years, including the first Hustler magazine, were in his name, not Larry’s.

“I had a clean name, no record,” Jimmy says. “So we put the club in my name and we grew from there.”

He says his contributions to the business continued through the decades, especially after Larry was shot in 1978 and again when Larry’s mental health faltered and his behavior became more erratic.

His lawsuit claims that while Larry got national attention for wearing an American flag as a diaper, running for president and winning a landmark Supreme Court case based on his obscenity conviction, Jimmy became a stabilizing force in the company.

“Larry’s a lovely man, a great brother. But sometimes he has these demons he has to deal with,” Jimmy says. “When the episodes would kick in, we’d lose a lot of good people. The family would be torn apart.”

Jimmy says it often fell to him to set things right.

He says he was the one who, in 1975, flew to Italy to obtain the nude photographs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis that made Hustler a best seller and saved the struggling company. And he says he’s the one who came up with the idea to sell sex toys and lingerie in Hustler retail stores, earning the company millions of dollars in the past decade.

According to Jimmy, he even coined the stores’ slogan: “Relax … it’s just sex!”

Jimmy’s lawyer, Bob Hojnoski, says the Flynts have for years run their privately held companies like any other family business, resolving differences with handshakes and hugs and without a clear division of power. He says Jimmy is entitled to no less than half the company.

“After all he’s done, Larry has tried to squeeze him out,” Hojnoski says. “To say he’s just an employee, just defies all the years they’ve spent together.”

But that’s exactly how Larry describes his brother, as an employee who can be hired and fired like any other. He says the two never had a partnership and he scoffs at the notion that Jimmy kept the company afloat while he dealt with health problems.

He says he brought Jimmy into the company only because his mother asked him to take care of him, and he says Jimmy disappointed him time and again, bungling jobs and costing the company money.

“Jimmy didn’t add anything to the value of the company, but I continued to employ him,” Larry says. “He’s my brother. I don’t go around telling people he’s a bum.”

He says he didn’t take Jimmy off the payroll until Jimmy’s sons, Jimmy II and Dustin, started a competing business after Larry fired them for poor work habits. He says he needed Jimmy’s paycheck to cover legal bills from the resulting trademark infringement case, which he says cost him about $400,000.

Jimmy says he tried to talk his boys out of using the Flynt name, but they wouldn’t listen.

Larry doesn’t buy it.

“I can’t believe they did it without him knowing,” he says. “They felt they had a sense of entitlement because their name is Flynt. They liked to walk around and do nothing. I put up with it for years until I decided I’m not going to put up with it any more.”
‘I’m known worldwide’

Jimmy says this isn’t the first time Larry has failed to appreciate – or even to acknowledge – his contributions to the company.

Over the years, Jimmy says, he grew accustomed to playing a smaller public role and getting less of the credit for the company’s success than his more famous brother. He says he accepted his role for the good of the company, but that doesn’t mean he never chafed at the perception that he was not Larry’s equal.

It was a perception, he says, that Larry encouraged.

“Larry has always been the one out front. I’ve learned to deal with that,” Jimmy says. “Occasionally, he would throw me a bone of respect. He’d say, ‘Hey, brother, good job.’ But it was very difficult for him to share the limelight.”

Hojnoski says Jimmy’s behind-the-scenes role shouldn’t make him second fiddle to Larry. He says Larry’s fame, which was cemented with the popular movie “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” is rooted in his flamboyant personality and circumstances beyond either of the brothers’ control.

“Larry was convicted; Jimmy wasn’t. Larry was shot; Jimmy wasn’t. It was ‘The People vs. Larry Flynt,’ not ‘The People vs. Jimmy Flynt,'” Hojnoski says. “Jimmy raised his sons. He led a quieter life. That doesn’t mean he contributed less.”

Larry’s lawyer, Mark VanderLaan, says all the talk about partnerships, hugs and handshakes means nothing because neither history nor company records support Jimmy’s claim.

He says Larry has been in charge from the beginning, and he still is.

Larry says the company, which he has claimed is worth as much as $400 million, has succeeded because of his leadership. He said that’s why he fought so hard to protect the Flynt name in the trademark case: People think of Larry Flynt when they hear it, not Jimmy or Jimmy’s sons.

“I’m known worldwide. The Hustler brand is worldwide,” Larry says. “I copyrighted the name Hustler, and it’s always been used in connection with my name.”

Jimmy says he still can’t believe how quickly things went bad. Just a few years ago, he says, his brother choked up while inducting Jimmy into the Hustler Walk of Fame, a porn version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“He’s been a loyal brother and with me from the beginning,” Larry said then. “I’m very proud of him.”

The invitation for that ceremony included a photo of the brothers, smiling, arm-in-arm, on Jimmy’s wedding day in 1973. They are decked out in identical white suits with polka-dot shirts, holding glasses of champagne.

“We’ve been through a lot together,” Jimmy says. “I’m willing to talk with him any time. How bad could it be? It’s not like I cheated him out of anything, or we had a fistfight.”

Larry, though, sounds like a man ready to throw a punch. He grumbles when asked if the relationship with his brother can be repaired.

“No,” he says. “I think it’s gone beyond that now.”


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