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The UNHW divorce driving the art auction industry

22nd June 2022

Where the multimillions are made: UHNW divorce  

The Macklowe split has it all – octogenarians fighting for 5 years in the most acrimonious of proceedings. Enter stage left, real estate mogul Harry Macklowe, allegedly erecting a 42+ foot billboard of himself and his new wife on a Park Avenue building where the parties had owned apartments, dubbed the Height of Spite tells senior associate, Ella Welsby. 

The split has since given way to two monumental auctions at Sothebys - the first held in November 2021, the second, most recently, in May 2022 – as the pair sought to sell off the trove of artwork they had amassed throughout their almost six-decade marriage.  The auctions were certainly not anticlimactic either, with bidders breaking estimation barriers and raising an eye-watering combined total of almost $1 billion dollars, setting the record for the most valuable art collection ever to be sold at auction. 

The Macklowe divorce-driven auction is not the first of its kind, though - art is an increasingly important asset class, with NFT art beginning to feature in cases too. That said -its highly unusual for a collection to be worth more than the couples high-octane property portfolio – Russell Crowes divorce auction in 2018 netted a comparably modest $3.7m (comprising, as well as Australian art, movie memorabilia and more) – but this is credit to the couples eye says Ella. 

Should the cheated get more than the cheater?  

The Macklowe marriage found its bitter end in revelations of Harry Macklowes affair with Patricia Landeau. Their acrimonious divorce proceedings are therefore unsurprising, and some might call Linda Macklowes decision to decline a $1 billion dollar settlement (half of their $2 billion dollar fortune) unsurprising to this extent, too.   

Surely, some may believe, the cheated should get more than the cheater? From a UK perspective, this kind of reasoning certainly doesnt apply, however. Personal conduct, unless in severe and exceptional circumstances, has no impact on the divorce settlement.  

Wherever ones moral reasoning lies – there is one thing we can all agree on: Linda Macklowe, no doubt, will be walking away with a handsome sum after a successful auction of the pairs beloved trove of pieces. And Sothebys, no doubt, will handsomely benefit too.   

 

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