Collector Ron Perelman sold $963m worth of art to pay off debt

Cosmetics investor and megacollector Ron Perelman sold off nearly $1bn worth of his famed art collection over a two-year period in order to pay down debt after Revlon stock plunged during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, recently unsealed court filings show. Perelman, the company’s longtime boss, had used his shares as collateral for loans from Deutsche Bank and other lenders.

The unsealed documents state that the sale of the 71 works resulted in $963.3m between 10 March 2020 and 10 January 2022. Of that, about $910.3m went towards paying creditors. The filings were first reported by Bloomberg, which said the sales were spurred when Perelman received a margin call by Deutsche Bank, demanding more capital in his account. He also reportedly put a private jet and superyacht on the market in 2020.

The 71 works are by 25 artists, most of them household names. The filing refers to the sales of eight works by Ellsworth Kelly, eight by Cy Twombly and seven by Ed Ruscha, along with five works each by Andy Warhol, Brice Marden and Roy Lichtenstein. According to the documents, Perelman sold four works by Gerhard Richter; three each by Egon Schiele, Alberto Giacometti, Franz Kline and Jasper Johns; and two each by Henri Matisse, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Joan Miró. The filing records one work sold by Damien Hirst, Constantin Brâncuși, Blinky Palermo, Francis Bacon, Günther Förg, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Willem de Kooning and Anish Kapoor.

Peinture (Femme au chapeau rouge) (1927) by Joan Miró Courtesy Sotheby’s

The works listed appear to match high-profile sales from the past few years, including two works from Perelman’s collection sold during a Sotheby’s London sale in 2020. Miró’s Peinture (Femme au chapeau rouge) (1927) was the cross-category Rembrandt to Richter sale’s top lot; it previously belonged to Alexander Calder. The painting fetched £20.6m (£22.3m with fees) against its £20m-£30m estimate, while the other Perelman lot, Matisse’s Danseuse dans un intérieur, carrelage vert et noir (1942), failed to reach its £8m-£12m estimate and sold to the guarantor for £5.5m (£6.4m with fees).

The filing also refers to Twombly’s Untitled (Bolsena), which lines up with a 1969 work that sold for $35m ($38m with fees) during a Christie’s post-war and contemporary evening sale in October 2020. It was one of a handful of lots from the sale rumoured at the time to be from Perelman’s collection, along with de Kooning’s Woman (Green), a work from 1953-55—which matches a description from the court filings—that sold for its low estimate of $20m ($23.6m with fees). An untitled 1967 Rothko, thought to have been Perelman’s, fetched $28m ($31.7m with fees) against its $30m-$50m estimate.

Cy Twombly’s Untitled (Bolsena) (1969) Courtesy Christie’s

Other works listed in the filings appear to have been sold in private transactions. Documents indicate that billionaire Citadel founder Ken Griffin purchased two works after visiting Perelman’s East Hamptons estate with the megadealer Larry Gagosian in August 2020.

The documents that revealed the extent of Perelman’s art consignments were unsealed this week as part of an ongoing lawsuit between Perelman’s holding companies and insurance underwriters over a $410m insurance claim by the billionaire. Perelman says five works of art held in his East Hamptons home had lost “their lustre” after a 2018 fire, while Lloyd’s of London argues the works in question did not sustain any detectable damage caused by the blaze. Their lawyers have also questioned why Perelman waited two years to claim the damage, and only after Revlon shares nosedived.

A request for comment to MacAndrews & Forbes, Perelman’s holding company, was not immediately returned.