Estate Sale: Finance Titan Joe Gregory

What went on sale when the former president of Lehman Brothers cleaned house was a collector’s delight.



The Regency dining table and chairs went for $237,500 at Sotheby’s.

There was a bit of schadenfreude along with curiosity when the furniture collection of former Lehman Brothers president Joe Gregory and his wife, Niki, went up for sale at Sotheby’s. Gregory’s business style rankled many since he was known for his brash, in-your-face bravado and lack of humility. It didn’t help that he was also the architect of the shamed mortgage-lending area of the bank, which contributed to Lehman’s bankruptcy in 2008. But the Gregorys' style of furniture at their 15,000-square-foot home in Lloyd Harbor, New York, was both tasteful and valuable to collectors, including works by such brand-name English cabinetmakers as Thomas Chippendale. The 111 lots fetched a total of $2,753,815 and revealed a robust buyer’s market for English furniture. But, as Andrew Ogletree, specialist in Sotheby’s English Furniture Department, says, the pieces that will have the most value are those that “retain their original finishes” and haven’t had to be restored. 
 

Chippendale pier tablesDecorative Arts

Ogletree believes there is a dichotomy in the world of furniture: the functional, and the sculptural. “Depending on what you buy, there are certain pieces that achieve a level of sculpture—those that are beautifully made, with pretty color and surface, and are as authentic as possible. Those pieces, along with works of exceptional provenance, occupy the highest end of the market, and hold their value well.” Case in point: the pair of tables that sold for $305,000, above their high estimate of $250,000—the top price of the auction. “These are terrific illustrations of the phenomenon of furniture meeting sculpture,” says Ogletree. “Their beautifully figured satinwood tabletops are painted with floral bandings, and their distinctive frieze along the curved side recalls the work of Thomas Chippendale at Harewood House, one of the most impressive and complete houses designed by Robert Adam in 1758.” 

Not surprisingly, dining-room tables that fit a large group are in high demand. These are great investments for any family and hold their value. “The Gregorys’ dining-room table is a great example of the importance of exceptional provenance, another critical factor when purchasing furniture,” says Ogletree. “The table can be traced back to the Cheesment-Severn family of Radnorshire, one of 13 historic counties in Wales. John Cheesment-Severn, 1781 to 1875, rose to prominence as a barrister, a high sheriff of Radnorshire, and a member of Parliament. The table descended through the same family until 1928, an attractive quality for serious collectors and connoisseurs.” 

SOTHEBY’S NEW YORK

Chippendale pier tables circa 1780, set of 2
Estimate: $150,000 to $250,000
Sold: $305,000

Regency rosewood bookcases, circa 1815
Estimate: $30,000 to $50,000
Sold: $173,000 

Regency mahogany dining table, circa 1810
Estimate: $200,000 to $300,000
Sold: $125,000

10 George III mahogany dining chairs, circa 1765
Estimate: $70,000 to $100,000
Sold: $112,500

George III Chippendale mirrors, circa 1765
Estimate: $60,000 to $80,000
Sold: $112,500

George III commode, circa 1785
Estimate: $80,000 to $120,000
Sold: $93,750 
 

 ANDREAS GURSKY  Pyongyang II, 2007Paintings & Sculpture

In trying to make art and furnishings exciting and accessible to people whose lifestyles don’t include private jets and diamonds the size of golf balls, Christie’s offered a fall sale of post-war and contemporary art from emerging artists as well as lesser-known works of established 20th-century figures. These works produced overall sales of $13,666,875. According to Saara Pritchard, head of First Open Sale at Christie’s, “Bidders fought hard for signature works by rising stars including Tauba Auerbach and Oscar Murillo, as well as rare vintage and exceptional examples of Alfred Jensen, Alexander Calder, and Howard Hodgkin.”

CHRISTIE’S NEW YORK 
 

ANDREAS GURSKY Pyongyang II, 2007
Estimate: $800,000 to $1,200,000
Sold: $963,750

TAUBA AUERBACH Untitled FOLD XVIII, 2010
Estimate: $250,000 to $350,000
Sold: $495,750

ALFRED JENSEN Heaven; Per I and II, 1971
Estimate: $100,000 to $150,000 
Sold: $477,750

ALEXANDER CALDER, Starfish, bronze, 1944
Estimate: $100,000 to $150,000
Sold: $459,750

KEITH HARING, Untitled, 1982
Estimate: $80,000 to $120,000
Sold: $327,750

BARRY FLANAGAN Acrobats, bronze, 2004
Estimate: $120,000 to $180,000
Sold: $255,750
 

ALEXANDER CALDER Untitled, 1940Jewelry

In 2005, a Philadelphia “flea market junkie” made her annual trip to the famous Brooklyn Flea market on Atlantic Avenue. She spotted a silver, spiraled necklace amid a jumble of trinkets and curios and snatched it up for just $15. Three years later, she saw a similar necklace on the cover of Philadelphia Weekly to announce the Philadelphia Art Museum’s new exhibit, “Calder Jewelry.” She reached out to the show's curator, who suggested she contact a specialist. She did, and the piece was authenticated and sold for $267,750, a nice return on her investment.

CHRISTIE'S 

ALEXANDER CALDER Untitled, 1940
Estimate: $200,000 to $300,000
Sold: $267,750

Jill Brooke attended countless jewelry and art auctions while working at CNN and at numerous magazines. Her new book: Bullish Not Bullied: The Need to Say No, was released in September.