A load of bull and other spoils of Mad­off ’s lav­ish life sold for $2m in aid of fleeced in­vestors

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - AUCTIONS -

ANY­ONE want­ing to walk in the shoes of fallen fi­nancier Bernard Mad­off was in luck last month: thou­sands of be­long­ings from his New York City pent­house, in­clud­ing his used shoes, went on the auc­tion block.

An anony­mous bid­der paid the high­est price of the auc­tion – $550 000 (about R3.85 mil­lion) – for a 10.5-carat di­a­mond en­gage­ment ring that be­longed to Mad­off ’s wife, Ruth. The win­ning bid topped the $300 000 min­i­mum pre-sale es­ti­mate.

Ruth Mad­off ’s French di­a­mond ear­rings fetched the next h i g h e s t p r i c e . Va l u e d a t $100 000 to $137 500, they went for $135 000 to an undis­closed buyer.

The man who be­came a sym­bol of greed and de­ceit on Wall Street also had a lav­ish col­lec­tion of watches. One of his vin­tage steel Rolex “Moon Phase” watches sold for $67 500, top­ping a $60 000 min­i­mum es­ti­mate.

The sale started on a Satur­day morn­ing at the Sher­a­ton New York Ho­tel & Tow­ers, with an auc­tion­eer from Tex­as­based Gas­ton & Shee­han rat­tling off lots at a tongue-twist­ing speed all day and into the evening.

Buy­ers re­sponded at fever pitch.

They raised their hands to sig­nal a bid – ac­com­pa­nied by blood­cur­dling shouts from bidspot­ters mark­ing a win­ning price.

Their swag­ger­ing style – as if herd­ing bulls in­stead of sell­ing Mad­off ’s artsy ones – seemed ap­pro­pri­ate for an auc­tion of the be­long­ings of a Wall Street trader who cher­ished the win­ning bull in ev­ery form.

He bought stat­ues and paint­ings of them and even named his boats Bull, Sit­ting Bull and Lit­tle Bull.

A leather bull foot­stool – in­clud­ing a tail that had bro­ken off – sold for $3 300, against a pre-sale es­ti­mate of $250 to $360.

While many of the more than 400 lots in­cluded lux­ury items, the Mad­offs’ pent­house did have touches of cul­ture.

A 1 9 1 7 S t e i n w ay g r a n d pi­ano from their liv­ing room went for $42 000 – six times the min­i­mum es­ti­mate of $7 000. The buyer was an 81-year-old Long Is­land prop­erty ex­ec­u­tive.

“I’ve got loads of pianos, but this one has his­tory – it’ll make an in­ter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tion piece,” said John Rodger, an am­a­teur pi­anist who will keep the Stein­way in his home in East Is­lip.

An oil paint­ing by the late Amer­i­can artist Fred­er­ick Carl Frieseke sold for $47 500, against a pre-sale es­ti­mate of $20 000 to $45 000.

The Man­hat­tan sale was the last auc­tion in New York of Mad­off be­long­ings. A third and fi­nal auc­tion is to be held in Florida to sell off items from a Palm Beach home that went for more than $5.5m last month.

Mad­off was ar­rested two years ago and quickly ad­mit­ted his scheme. In­ves­ti­ga­tors said he used bil­lions of dol­lars in cash from new in­vestors to pay old ones, cheat­ing char­i­ties, celebri­ties and in­sti­tu­tional in­vestors.

US mar­shals seized ev­ery­thing in the Mad­offs’ Man­hat­tan flat and Long Is­land beach house: worn socks, new mono­grammed boxer shorts, Ital­ian vel­veteen slip­pers bear­ing the ini­tials “BLM” in gold em­broi­dery.

All of it was be­ing sold – with mor­bid fas­ci­na­tion for mun­dane ar­ti­cles from the cou­ple’s daily life that also were on the block, from bed linen, cloth­ing, cook­ware and lug­gage to in­ti­mate items such as cu­ti­cle scis­sors and bot­tles of sham­poo.

Val­ued at $75 to $110, the lot with the slip­pers in­cluded Ruth Mad­off ’s mono­grammed shirt. A young man paid $6 000 for all of it, say­ing he’ll never be able to wear the slip­pers be­cause his shoe size is 13; Mad­off wore a size 8. He de­clined to give his name.

For $1 700, 11 pairs of box­ers came with a pair of silk Ar­mani pants and one of Prada panty­hose, along with dozens of pairs of used socks, in a lot es­ti­mated to be worth $960 to $1 370.

Be­sides bulls and fine watches, Mad­off loved shoes. He owned about 250 pairs, many never worn – made in Italy, France, Bel­gium and Eng­land.

Ten pairs of Mad­off ’s used de­signer shoes sold for $900, against a min­i­mum of $250.

The dis­graced 72-year-old trader is be­hind bars for life in a North Carolina prison, and his wife was or­dered to leave their homes.

De­spite their vast wealth, the Mad­offs didn’t seem to make much room for house guests.

The auc­tion in­cluded their early 19th-cen­tury bed with fab­ric hang­ings and “in­tense sun fad­ing”, at a pre-auc­tion es­ti­mate of $8 000 to $11 400.

“Just $500?” the in­cred­u­lous auc­tion­eer, Bob Shee­han, said of the first bid, adding: “This was the only bed in the whole house, I’m not kid­ding! $500? My God, it’s not a pull-out.”

It sold for $2 250.

Shee­han con­ducted the auc­tion for the US Mar­shals Ser­vice, which said it had grossed more than $2m from the auc­tion, far above the pre-sale goal of at least $1.2m.

Pro­ceeds will go to more than 3 000 clients Mad­off swin­dled in a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar Ponzi scheme.

“All 489 lots of ill-got­ten gains sold to­day and the pro­ceeds will go to­wards some­thing good for a change,” said Deputy US Mar­shal Roland Ubaldo.

Last year’s New York auct i o n o f M a d o f f ’s p ro p e r t y raised $1m.

The Man­hat­tan pent­house went for $8m, and his yacht and boats were also sold. – Sapa-AP

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