Bidding war for Lehman souvenirs at auction

A SALE of signs and artworks which adorned the walls of collapsed investment bank Lehman Brothers started with a bang yesterday as the first lots sold for way over their estimated prices.

A metal Lehman Brothers sign which hung outside its European headquarters in London sold for €50,000 to an anonymous telephone bidder, prompting gasps in the sale room at Christie’s in London.

The price, which included the buyer’s premium, was about 12 times its estimate and came after a bidding war with an internet bidder from China.

Another sign commemorating Britain’s former prime minister Gordon Brown opening the building when he was finance minister in 2004 fetched €33,330 with buyer’s premium, way above its estimated price of up to €1,700.

Lehman collapsed in 2008, a key event in the global financial turmoil which reached its peak that year.

The auction of some 300 items was ordered by administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) who hope to raise about £2 million (€2.3m) for creditors.

But however much the sale raises, it will make only a tiny dent in the more than €440 billion which Lehman owes.

Another sale of items from Lehman’s US operation raised almost €9m at Sotheby’s in New York Saturday.

In London, many of those in the sale room were former Lehman employees looking for a souvenir of their time at the bank.

“I was an employee for eight-and-a-half years, I was there at the end,” said one man.

He said he was at the sale to bid for “a memory” and had seen several former colleagues there.

“It was a sad end to it all but I had a lot of good times there, it was where I started off my career,” he added.

Other lots include paintings by artists including Lucian Freud and Anthony Gormley, sets of leather-bound books of Shakespeare and Charles Dickens and contemporary photographs.

Lehman was the world’s fourth-largest investment bank on September 15, 2008, when it filed the biggest bankruptcy in US history.

“Everyone recognises the bankruptcy was the turning point in the economy,” William Porter, head of British and Irish art at Christie’s South Kensington, said before the sale. “The infamy of the name is a good provenance. The attraction lies in the car-crash element.”

The bank has said it may spend five more years selling assets to pay unsecured creditors.


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