Filed under: Art
Last month, J. Ezra Merkin Ascot Partners LP sold his art collection, which included a hefty dose of works by Mark Rothko, for $310 million. The buyer still isn't known, which is the norm in the art market. But, there are some breadcrumbs along the way which Bloomberg News considered worth following. Interestingly, Merkin's Ascot Partners LP had invested a considerable amount of cash with Ponzi scam artist Bernie Madoff.
Along the way, Merkin's agent, TLIA, LLC, picked up $26.5 million of the $37.5 million in fees. The company is registered to a retired art collector and advisor, Ben Heller, age 83. He isn't talking. PaceWildenstein, which represents the Rothko estate, nabbed the other $11 million. Again, no comment. Yet, TLIA's piece of the commission is a bit high, according to art advisor Liz Klein, but she notes that answers are impossible without the full set of facts. Given the generally silent art market, we're unlikely to get all the facts anytime soon.
Like Merkin, Heller was a Madoff victim - $3.4 million in a charitable trust and $10 million of his own cash went down the drain.