by Ursula Kampmann
November 8, 2012 – On January 4, 2012 the Prospero Collection was sold in New York. It was a great auction! For decades the material had been stored away untouched. With wit and taste the collector had acquired the coins from the most prominent coin dealers of his time. The coin market, hence, went haywire, the prices realised were simply exorbitant. The biggest buyer was, once more, sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Al-Thani.
Eleven months later, though, things look different. The organisers of the auction are still waiting for their money. Eventually, the issue has gone to court.
Reports of the British press show that the coin dealers’ barrister does not mince words. He called the defendant, after all cousin of the ruling emir of Qatar, a ‘serial defaulter’ claiming that he has run up debts with other auction houses too – reportedly 4.3 million pounds with Bonham and 26 million pounds with Sotheby. ‘He is bidding when he knows he’s not going to be able to pay. Perhaps in a perverse way he enjoys the process of bidding,’ barrister Jeffrey Gruder states according to a Telegraph article.
On October 9, 2012 the British assets of sheikh Al-Thani were reportedly frozen. However, the creditors fear the Qatari citizen might have withdrawn to Doha in order to not be in their reach. It will not appease them to hear Mr Al-Thani’s barrister describing his client’s behaviour as ‘not unusual’ for men in the sheik’s position who prefer to return to the Middle East when the cold season starts. According to the sheik’s barrister his client tried indeed to settle his debts and only due to ‘timing issues’ he was not yet able to pay.
‘He is a very well-known and internationally regarded art collector,’ said Mr Al Thani’s barrister Stephen Rubin. At the same time he denied the auctioneers’ right of suing his client since they merely organised the sale of the coins on behalf of an unidentified client of Baldwin. In addition they still keep the coins and, as Mr Rubin said, they are free to find a buyer for them if they wish to.
However, the barrister did not query whether this buyer would ever pay the same price the sheik was willing to pay at the sale.
On October 27, 2011 we reported on the coin collector Al-Thani. If you want to read the article again, please click here.
If you want to see some coins from the Prospero Sale, click here.