• ARTnewsletter Archive

    Steve Wynn Sues Insurer Over Damaged Painting

    Steve Wynn, the casino mogul and art collector, says insurer Lloyd’s of London owes him $54 million. Last September, Wynn accidentally poked his elbow through Pablo Picasso’s 1932 painting Le Rêve—one day after he had reached an agreement to sell the work for $139 million to hedge-fund founder Steven Cohen of SAC Capital Partners. Following

    NEW YORK—Steve Wynn, the casino mogul and art collector, says insurer Lloyd’s of London owes him $54 million. Last September, Wynn accidentally poked his elbow through Pablo Picasso’s 1932 painting Le Rêve—one day after he had reached an agreement to sell the work for $139 million to hedge-fund founder Steven Cohen of SAC Capital Partners. Following the incident, Wynn reportedly canceled the deal.

    Le Rêve, which depicts Picasso’s lover Marie-Thérèse Walter, sustained a 3-inch tear that runs along the subject’s forearm.

    But the claims process isn’t moving fast enough for Wynn, who has filed papers stating that Lloyd’s owes him $54 million for a partial loss in the value of the picture. It is not clear how Wynn arrived at this figure, and numerous phone calls to his attorney Barry Slotnick seeking clarification were not returned.

    On Jan. 12 Slotnick filed a lawsuit on Wynn’s behalf against “Lloyd’s, London, and certain underwriters at Lloyd’s, London,” as the complaint states, for failing to submit their appraisers’ reports on the painting and continuing to withhold these reports, thereby stalling the process.

    Lloyd’s appraisers, the complaint shows, were Nancy Whyte, a former head of Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s, and Michel Strauss, a former cochairman at Sotheby’s.

    Wynn’s loss figure of $54 million is based on his claim that the restored painting is now worth $85 million—$54 million less than what Cohen offered to pay for it. Wynn (who had purchased Le Rêve in 2000 for just under $50 million) filed the partial-loss claim with Lloyd’s on Jan. 2.

    “Unfortunately,” attorney Slotnick told ARTnewsletter, “we had to bring a lawsuit because Lloyd’s does not want to settle.” He notes that “when you have an insurance company that sends you a premium bill and you don’t make it on time, they cancel your insurance. In the same vein, they should be obligated to pay losses in a timely

    fashion.”

    Slotnick suggests that Lloyd’s may be stalling for financial gain: “Every day they have [Steve’s] money in their pocket, they are making money.”

    A spokesperson for Lloyd’s issued the following statement to ARTnewsletter: “This is a matter between Mr. Wynn and the specific underwriters involved. It would therefore be inappropriate for us to comment.”

    According to a Dec. 20 letter written by Gregory Smith, an insurance adjuster, to Wynn’s attorney Kim Sinatra, the underwriters haveagreed to pay consultation and restoration fees of more than $110,000 for Le Rêve as well as the cost of guarding and transporting the painting after restoration.

    Thedamage inadvertently madeby Wynn to Le Rêve was witnessed by writer Nora Ephron, her husband, Nicholas Pileggi, and Barbara Walters—and moved Wynn to say, “Thank God, it was me,” Ephron later wrote. Wynn suffers from an ocular condition that limits his peripheral vision.

    Dorit Straus, worldwide fine art manager at Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, says she has never heard of a partial-loss claim this large. “It’s better to come to terms with a client than to have a lawsuit filed against you,” says Straus, who has been in the business since 1982. “Once you go to court, the knuckles are bared.”