Auction block: Merrill petitions court for Minor's art
Internet tycoon Halsey Minor, who recently rescued his Albemarle farm from foreclosure after a spate of financial setbacks, has now been asked by Bank of America to give up dozens of artworks and pieces of furniture to satisfy the $21.6 million judgment won by its subsidiary, Merrill Lynch, in October. The request was part of a series of documents filed March 23 in a New York federal court.
"I have been trying to pay Merrill off, and they have been resisting," says Minor, who claims that Merrill chose Christie's auction house to liquidate his modern art collection in a deliberate effort to wipe out some of his wealth.
"Merrill knows they will get their money," says Minor, who is separately suing Merrill and Christie's in California where he lives, "but they want to destroy as much of my money as they can in the process."
Minor has petitioned the court to wrest the auction away from Christie's, which pegs his trove as worth just $17 million or so, and toward the Phillips de Pury Company, which values the items over $22.5 million–- and which has offered to pay Minor 108 percent of the sales price.
Minor's court filings call Phillips the superior auction house because the firm specializes in contemporary works, issues the best catalogues, and plans to showcase his art in triple-height windows at a prominent corner on New York's famed Park Avenue.
James Perkins, lawyer for Merrill, declined comment; but in a court document he blasts Minor's March 6 push for the other auction house as an "eleventh hour" move and laments that Minor accompanied the move with "threatening" emails–- emails that, Perkins contends, violate a court order issued against Minor last summer.
"I was asking them to please let me pay them back," explains Minor. "They found that offensive."
Perkins tried to get Minor declared in contempt of court, but judge Sidney H. Stein (who issued the harassment order last summer) declined.