Bernie Madoff associate Ezra Merkin forced by New York State to sell $300M art collection

July 2nd, 2009

Ezra Merkin, via Guardian UK.

After weeks of negotiation with the Attorney General’s office, J. Ezra Merkin has agreed to sell an art collection appraised by Christie’s at $310 million.  After taxes and other fees — the New York Times reports that Merkin was paying $60,000 a month on insurance, and owed $42 million to previous owners as well as $19.3 million on a loan used to purchase the artwork — profits from the sale amount to $191 million, to be frozen in escrow pending the outcome of the Attorney General’s suit against the suspected Bernie Madoff feeder.

Related links:
Statement from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on the Sale of J. Ezra Merkin’s Collection

Merkin Reaches Accord with Cuomo on Art Sale [New York Times]
Madoff, Merkin, and the Murals
[Wall Street Journal: The Wealth Report]
Merkin Selling Art Frozen in Lawsuit for $310 Million
Andrew Cuomo Unveils Deal to Sell Art Collection of Ezra Merkin, Bernie Madoff’s Associate [New York Post]

Sold to an anonymous buyer, the collection comprises fifteen pieces, including two sculptures by Alberto Giacometti and twelve Rothko paintings.  The sale, “if our litigation is successful,” says Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, “will provide restitution to victims of Mr. Merkin’s alleged fraud.”  Ezra Merkin is accused of funneling money into Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, and deceiving his clients about those investments.  He is also being sued by New York University, which lost $24 million in Ariel, a fund which Merkin managed. Yeshiva University has also pursued litigation against the investor, saying that it explicitly told Merkin not to place its money with Madoff, a request which Merkin ignored.  Merkin continues to maintain his innocence, claiming that he knew nothing of the $65 billion fraud which beggared some Madoff clients and which has landed the financier a 150-year prison term.  The defendant’s lawyer, Andrew Levander, has said that Merkin and his family “are among the largest victims” of the scheme, and that “the lawsuits are without merit.”


– Rivka Fogel