Madoff's Money Man Sells Rothkos for $310M

Merkin unloads art, but buyer's identity a mystery
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 1, 2009 7:53 AM CDT
A $42 million lien against Merkin's paintings, held by Rothko's dealer on the family's behalf, suggests that he had still not fully paid for works he bought years ago.   (©Daquella manera)
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(Newser) – Ezra Merkin, the financier who pumped billions of his clients' money into Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, is selling more than 10 paintings by Mark Rothko and two sculptures by Alberto Giacometti for $310 million, reports the Wall Street Journal. Some of the proceeds may go to his defrauded investors, who include charities and nonprofits.

The sale was announced by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is suing Merkin and has frozen his assets. The price tag on the paintings is surprisingly high, and the identity of the buyer is unknown—but many in the art world think the Rothko family may have acquired the works. The family told associates they wanted to buy back the paintings after the Madoff scandal broke.
(Read more Mark Rothko stories.)