Collector Sheik al-Thani died

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by Björn Schöpe

November 13, 2014 – On November 9, 2014 Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed al-Thani died in his house in London aged 48; the cause of his death has not been revealed officially. Sheikh al-Thani was welcome in all auction houses as he bought in a big way objects of all kinds. He was considered the richest private collector of the world.

Sheikh al-Thani was a distant cousin of the current Emir of Qatar and occupied the position of Minister of Culture from 1997 until 2005 in his native country. It was in this epoch when he purchased objects of art and antiquities to fill up whole museums planned by the oil-rich country. Allegedly al-Thani spent billions of dollars on that purpose – although apparently it was not always clear which item he bought as a private collector and which on behalf of the state. In 2005 al-Thani was dismissed and accused of embezzlement and misappropriating public funds. Soon after, though, he was cleared of all these accusations and continued to increase his private collections.

One out of his many collecting fields where the sheikh invested gigantic sums was numismatics. However, particularly in the world of coins he has been seen as a controversial figure: collectors feared al-Thani because he would buy complete collections of the rarest coins en bloc – and due to his virtually unlimited financial possibilities he boosted prices enormously; even auction houses became suspicious at his showing up since some firms – among them Baldwin’s – sued the sheikh, in 2012, as he owed them millions. Therefore, in autumn 2012 a London court froze $15 million worth of al-Thani’s assets.

At first this news appeared in the English-speaking art market scene: here and here.

Later on other media reported also on al-Thani’s death, as the BBC and Doha News.

CoinsWeekly reported on Sheikh al-Thani’s dubious behaviour in the numismatic world.

And we reported also on Baldwin’s legal action against al-Thani.

Al-Thani owed some $42 million with Sotheby’s alone. In order to settle this debt the sheikh pledged some items comprising a precious watch sold by the auction house for $24 million.

A complete Wikipedia article is dedicated to the collections and collecting practices of the al-Thani family.