Qatari sheikh in court over $42m unpaid auction bids

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The Henry Graves Supercomplication (Sotheby's).

The Henry Graves Supercomplication (Sotheby's).

A member of the Qatari royal family has pledged US$83m worth of collectables, including the world’s most expensive watch, to Sotheby’s to cover debts he owes the auction house, Bloomberg reported.

Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Bin Ali Al Thani, a renowned art collector, owes the London-based auction house US$42m in unpaid bids, the newswire said citing US court documents.

Sheikh Saud, the cousin of the Emir of Qatar, provided the auction house a list of 240 collectables that he has pledged to the auction house’s lending unit. The items include diamond jewellery, tribal art, ancient Roman artifacts and antique books.

The items include a pocket watch known as the Henry Graves Supercomplication, which was commissioned by the private banker from which it takes its name in 1928. In 1999, an anonymous bidder paid a record US$11m for the timepiece.

Sheikh Saud, who was named as one of the world’s top ten collectors in August 2011, has been hit by two lawsuits since September, Bloomberg said.

He has failed to pay at least 11 auction houses and dealers in the last 18 months, including US$19.8m for ancient Greek coins that he bid on during a January Sotheby’s auction. He is also reported to owe US$6.85m plus interest to auction house Bonhams, who filed a case last month.

A UK court last week extended a US$15m asset freeze in connection with a suit filed in the US, said Bloomberg. Sotheby’s sought the freeze in the UK because he owns property there, it added.

Sheikh Saud is waiting payment of US$100m for a wildlife preserve and a natural history collection that he sold to Qatar and the Qatar Museums Authority, according to a judgment on Saturday.

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