Home / World / The mysterious buyer of da Vinci painting $ 450 million? A Saudi prince

The mysterious buyer of da Vinci painting $ 450 million? A Saudi prince



A Christie & # 39; s spokeswoman, the auction house that sold "Salvator Mundi," said she did not comment on the identity of any buyer or seller without her permission. Prince Badar did not respond to a detailed request for comment. But while The Times was pushing for an answer on Wednesday, the newly opened branch of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, tweeted that the painting "is coming to the Louvre Abu Dhabi." The crown prince of Arabia is a close ally of his counterpart in Abu Dhabi.

Documents provided from within Saudi Arabia and reviewed by The Times reveal that the buyer's representative, Prince Bader, did not present him as bidder until the day before the sale. He was such an unknown figure that Christie's executives struggled to establish their identity and financial means. And even after having provided a deposit of $ 100 million to qualify for the auction, Christie's lawyers conducting due diligence on potential bidders pressed him with two punctual questions:

Where did you get the money? And what was your relationship with the Saudi ruler, King Salman?

Real estate, Prince Bader replied, without giving further details. He was just one of the 5,000 princes, he told the auction house, according to documents and people involved.

Less than two weeks earlier, on November 4, the crown prince had ordered the suppression of more than 200 of the richest in Saudi Arabia. princes, businessmen and government officials. The kingdom had been squeezed by years of low oil prices, and Prince Mohammed was trying to recover hundreds of billions of dollars in alleged illicit profits.

"Salvator Mundi" represented an important purchase of prestige in the art world, if it is controversial. Some experts questioned whether the painting was a true Leonardo. Some were simply not impressed. The previous owner of the painting, Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, is a Russian billionaire who bought a $ 95 million Florida home from Donald J. Trump almost a decade ago. Mr. Rybolovlev had paid $ 127.5 million for the painting in 2013, less than a third of its selling price last month, and is still locked in a lawsuit with the seller who sold it for that high price, among other transactions . [19659007] For Prince Bader, paying such an unprecedented sum for a painting of Christ also ran the risk of offending the religious sensibilities of his Muslim compatriots. Muslims teach that Jesus was not the savior but a prophet. And most Muslims, especially clerics in Saudi Arabia, consider that the artistic representation of any of the prophets is a form of sacrilege.

Prince Bader comes from a minor branch of the royal family, the Farhan, descended from a brother of a Saudi ruler of the eighteenth century. They do not trace their lineage to the founder of the modern kingdom, King Abdulaziz ibn Saud. But Prince Bader is a contemporary of Prince Mohammed. They attended King Saud University in Riyadh almost at the same time, if not together. And after King Salman, now 81, took the throne in 2015 and appointed Prince Mohammed to lead much of the government, he appointed Prince Bader for high profile positions, including one closely related to the family.

The Salman branch of the royal family has traditionally controlled the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, which publishes the pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat and other publications. After almost 30 years of passing the presidency of the group from one Salman to another, King Salman and Prince Mohammed put Prince Bader in office.

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Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud [19659012] In July, King Salman also appointed Prince Bader as governor of a newly formed commission, led by Prince Mohammed, to develop the province of To the Wave, that contains an archaeological site that the inheriting prince hopes to turn into a tourist destiny.

A government statement on the commission noted that the development of the province was important for the crown prince's plans for the kingdom, known as Saudi Vision 2030, and last week the Saudi news channel Al Arabiya reported that the prince Mohammed had posed for selfies there with locals as they roamed the desert in a four-wheel buggy.

Prince Bader sat on the board of an energy company doing business in Saudi Arabia, Energy Holdings International, according to his website, and a short biography there describes him as "one of Saudi Arabia's youngest entrepreneurs " (It was not clear if the company is still operating)

According to the biography, he is also "chairman of the founding committee" of a local consortium that won a license from the kingdom to build a fiber optic network, in a "strategic partnership" with Verizon. It is common for well-connected Saudi princes to benefit by providing access to the kingdom for international companies.

He is also described as one of the founders of a large recycling and waste management business in Saudi Arabia. As for real estate, which Prince Bader described to Christie's source of his money, the biography says that "he has also been active in real estate projects in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and the rest of the Middle East for five years. ", even in association with" big name companies ". The date of the biography could not be determined.

It seems that Prince Bader also worked with Prince Mohammed on at least one big project for his own leisure. Together, they approached Brent Thompson Architects, a Los Angeles-based firm, to design a complex resort near Jidda, according to a description of the project on the group's website.

Consisted of up to seven palaces for princes. on the Salman branch of the family, around a body of artificial water in the shape of a flower. "The petals of this tropical flower formed a series of private coves, each home to an individual palace, its own private beaches, guest house, gardens and water sports facilities," according to the description on the company's website.

When the offer opened at Christie & # 39; s in New York on November 15, Prince Bader participated by telephone and was represented in the room by Alex Rotter, co-president of contemporary and post-war art in the auction house. At least three other anonymous bidders competed by telephone through representatives in the room. The main distributors and collectors from all over the art world had gathered to watch.

The tender was opened with an offer of $ 100 million from an unknown collector, setting a floor for the auction. Offers began to increase in increments of $ 10 million, and almost immediately reached $ 225 million, far surpassing the previous record of an auction: the $ 179.4 million paid by Picasso's "Women of Algiers" at Christie & # 39; s in 2015.

The price went up even more, in steps of $ 5 million, reaching $ 260 million less than two minutes after the auction began. Then, there were only two anonymous bidders, Prince Bader and another person represented in the room by François de Poortere, the director of ancient master cadres at Christie & # 39; s.

The price rose slowly for a while, in increments of only $ 2 million. But after the tender reached $ 330 million, Prince Bader began to increase the price in increasing quantities. The room erupted in gasps when he offered $ 350 million. "Looking for another offer, please, Francois, for $ 350 million," said the auctioneer, and the crowd laughed at his audacity.

However, the bidding continued until, about 19 minutes after the auction began, Prince Bader saved him a jump of $ 30 million, to $ 400 million. The final price of $ 450 million includes additional fees paid by the buyer.

The prince had told Christie's that he intended to pay in a single sum at the end of the sale. But in light of the unexpectedly high sale price, a contract was drafted specifying six monthly installments. Five are for $ 58,385,416.67.

The last installment expires on May 14. It's two cents less: $ 58,385,416.65.

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