A Manhattan estate feud over an allegedly purloined painting could bring a big loss to a famed Las Vegas hotel-casino.
The high-roller Bellagio is still waiting on the $1.085 million it thought it had raked in after selling one of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s masterworks, which was once displayed in its art museum.
“La Balayeuse,” described in a Christie’s catalogue as a “hushed, intimate scene of a pretty country girl absorbed in her sweeping,” was put up for sale last May by MGM Grand, the company that owns the Bellagio.
But MGM Grand can’t collect on the proceeds because the 1889 Renoir is caught up in legal fight.
“La Balayeuse” belonged to legendary art dealer Sam Salz, his sons Marc and Andre Salz say in court papers.
The Salz brothers claim their father’s widow, Janet Salz, wrongly sold “La Balayeuse” in a Sotheby’s auction in 1999.
Steve Wynn, the casino mogul who built the Bellagio, bought “La Balayeuse” from Janet Salz and installed it in the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art.
The following year, MGM Grand bought the Bellagio and its art works from Wynn.
When the Salz brothers learned last year of the painting’s sale, they claimed that it really belonged to their father’s estate — and that the $1.085 million Christie’s got from the sale is thus rightfully theirs.
The skirmish over the painting is the latest battle in a long running fight between the Salz sons and the estate of Janet Salz, who died in 2015.
“Janet perpetrated a decades-long scheme to fraudulently conceal certain paintings from [Marc] and his brother, Andre Salz to their detriment,” the brothers charge in court papers.
Christie’s has held the $1.085 million in escrow while the legal dispute plays out.
That frustrates the Bellagio and MGM Grand, a lawyer said during a July hearing in the case.
“There’s not a scintilla of evidence that the estate ever had an interest in the Renoir painting that my client bought back in 1999,” MGM Grand lawyer Jules Haas said, according to a transcript.
“My client’s money should not be sitting …in Christie’s for months on end.”
In a statement, MGM Grand summarized its views: the Salz brothers’ claims are “baseless and without merit.”
A lawyer for Janet Salz’s estate labeled the brother’s claims “meritless.”
The brothers signed a settlement agreement with Janet Salz back in the 1980s over similar claims, and cannot be allowed to undo it, lawyer Lisa Linsky argued.
“Marc and Andre entered into a global settlement releasing any and all claims they may have had against Mrs. Salz in all of her capacities forever more.
Marc and Andre then failed to do anything further for 30 years to take action on any of these claims,” Linsky says in court documents.