Is a Fight Over a $17 Million Ferrari Owned by a Victoria’s Secret Mogul Coming to an End?
It’s undoubtedly one of the most convoluted and expensive ownership disputes we’ve ever heard about. But the fight over a rare, fire-engine red 1954 Ferrari roadster owned by Victoria’s Secret mogul and art collector Leslie Wexner may finally be coming to an end.
In September a London court is scheduled to hear the case and possibly decide the fate of this car, which was purchased by Wexner for £10.7 million ($16.9 million) from Bonhams in 2014.
Wexner says he bought the car without knowledge about the complicated ownership disputes—that stretched from Cincinatti to Belgium, to Paraguay.
According to a Bloomberg Business report, the last undisputed owner of the car was Cincinatti-based Karl Kleve, an army engineer who later became a designer, artist, and author.
In 1958, Kleve bought the car’s damaged body for $2,500, from Jim Kimberly, an heir to the Kleenex tissue fortune. The car remained on his property before it was stolen sometime between 1985 and 1989, the story says, citing court documents.
Following the theft, part of the car turned up in Antwerp where it had been acquired by a Belgian dealer. Though customs officials had impounded the car after Kleve reported it stolen, authorities sided with the dealer, who then sold it to yet another Belgian car collector and racing driver, Jacques Swaters.
Swaters spent years restoring the car and its aluminum bodywork, unaware of the theft claim. But in 1999, after Kleve located the car and confirmed it was his based on the chassis number, Swaters agreed to pay him $625,000 in order to keep it.
Bloomberg quotes Dave Kinney, publisher of the Hagerty Classic Car Price Guide for classic cars, who said the car “has entered into the realm of fine art.”
After both Kleve and Swaters passed away (in 2003 and 2010, respectively), one of Swaters’ daughters filed a suit in Ohio claiming that Kleve violated the sale agreement by withholding some of the car’s parts. That claim was followed by two more—the report doesn’t specify names—including another Ohio resident and a US citizen residing in Switzerland.
Finally in 2013, all four parties agreed to settle their claims, put the car up for auction at Bonhams, and share in the proceeds.
In June 2014, the Ferrari was offered at Bonhams in Chichester, outside of London, at the prestigious annual Goodwood Festival of Speed. That was where Wexner snapped it up.
But just a few months later, Wexner sued Bonhams and demanded a full refund, alleging that there were ongoing disputes about the car that had not been revealed to him.
Bonhams sued Kleve’s daughter Kristine, alleging that she had violated the terms of her pre-auction settlement agreement, according to Bloomberg.
Adding another messy layer to this already complicated case, Bonhams also sued a dealer in Paraguay, who submitted a written claim for the Ferrari just three days before the June 2014 sale. The house reportedly paid him £2 million ($3.4 million) to avoid hindering the sale and is now alleging deceit on his part.
Now, all the UK lawsuits have been combined so that a judge may consider them together and finally reach a settlement. Bloomberg reports that the next hearing is scheduled for September.
Lawyers for Wexner did not immediately respond to request for comment. Neither did representatives for Bonhams.
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