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Judge Says Halsey Minor Owes Sotheby’s $6.6 Million

A federal judge in Manhattan has ordered Internet entrepreneur and art collector Halsey Minor to forfeit a range of personal and household valuables in order to pay off a $6.6 million debt to Sotheby’s.

NEW YORK—A federal judge in Manhattan has ordered Internet entrepreneur and art collector Halsey Minor to forfeit a range of personal and household valuables in order to pay off a $6.6million debt to Sotheby’s. The June 2 order from U.S. District Court judge Barbara Jones lists automobiles, furs, gems and watches worth more than $35million, as well as “furniture other than basic household furniture, chandeliers and other lamps other than basic household lights,” as well as “collectibles … except for basic tableware and basic cooking utensils and crockery.”

Last September, Sotheby’s sued Minor for failure to pay for three paintings—Andy Warhol’s Diamond Dust Shoes, 1980, (which was sold for $301,000), Childe Hassam’s Paris, Winter Day, 1887 ($3.96million), and Edward Hicks’s Peaceable Kingdom with the Leopard of Serenity, 1829–30 ($9.7million)—he had successfully bid on in a May 2009 auction of American art.

Minor claimed that Sotheby’s had failed to disclose a loan it had made to the consignor of the Hicks painting (gem dealer and American folk art collector Ralph Esmerian), and accused the auction house of “a scheme to boost its own profits” by hyping lots in which the auctioneer had a financial interest. Last October he filed a class-action lawsuit against the auction house. It was dismissed by a federal court in California in March 2009. The court ruled that Minor owed the auction house $4.4million “plus interest, late charges, and legal fees,” amounting to a total of $6.6 million.

On April 1, a New York district court ordered the sale of 96 works of fine and decorative art from Minor’s collection at Phillips de Pury & Com­pany, with the proceeds going to repay loans of more than $21.6million made in 2007 by Merrill Lynch Private Finance, which was taken over by Bank of America in 2008 (ANL, 4/20/10). That single-owner sale took place on May 13, bringing in a total of $21million.

Last month, a U.S. District Court in San Francisco ordered Christie’s to pay Minor $8.57million for breach of fiduciary duty and fraud, ruling the auction house had hindered his sale of seven Richard Prince paintings by not promptly returning the artworks to him after they failed to sell at a May 2008 auction. Between May and November of that year, when the paintings were returned to Minor, the art market went into a recession, and Minor brought a lawsuit against Christie’s in December of last year, claiming that its inaction caused him to suffer a loss.

As of last month, Minor has been barred indefinitely from bidding at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s, according to spokespersons at both houses.

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