A better use for $450 million


I just thought I’d share here what I had to say last night when I got the news….

I mean, seriously: You know how I got the above image for this post? I right-clicked on it and saved it. It’s in the public domain. Look at it all you want, for free.

I mean, that’s OK, right — you attorneys out there? Or does the new owner own the rights to the public domain photo on Wikipedia, too?

22 thoughts on “A better use for $450 million

  1. Norm Ivey

    No, it’s not in the public domain, technically. I believe the owner of the painting has a right of reproduction. You can’t make prints of the image and re-sell them for a profit. You’re probably safe using it as an image in a blog post about the artwork. I think the Louvre monitors images of the Mona Lisa the way Coca-Cola monitors the use of the word Coke.

  2. Richard

    In 10 years the buyer will resell it for $600 million, would you spend $450 million to make $150 million in 10 years?

      1. Richard

        What if you had $450 million to blow and not have it affect your lifestyle? The people who buy things like this are people where money has little to no value… think Saudi’s during the height of the oil boom. They’d leave Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s on the side of the road and walk away.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’d buy something useful with it, something I could do something with — preferably something that would make the world a better place. But even if I was just spending for fun, I’d buy something functional — homes in New York and London, a yacht, an airplane. Something I could DO something with.

          Maybe I’d buy The New York Times or The Washington Post. That’s something I could do a few things with.

          There was a time when The State might have cost that amount. After all, it sold for $300 million in 1986, and the market didn’t really fall out of newspapers until 20 years later, so the price could have gotten to that point sometime in that period.

          But now, The Post — big as it is — isn’t worth that. Bezos bought it for a mere $250 million — $50 million less than The State went for in the ’80s…

          But I will never, ever understand why anyone would waste money on something as useless as a piece of art or jewelry or anything nonfunctional.

          Don’t get me wrong — I value art. But as I said, I can look at this painting on Wikipedia any time. Why put all that money into something that could disappear forever in afire in seconds? Or a piece of jewelry that could fall off your arm into the ocean.

          Give me something too big and sturdy to misplace or accidentally destroy. Real estate, for instance. I mean the land, not the improvements…

          1. Richard

            The people who buy things like this already have a house in New York and London, a yacht, and an airplane. They also have land.

            Could you buy the New York Times or Washington Post for $450 million? Are they profitable these days or money pits like every other newspaper? Why would you buy something that will lose money, you might as well sell your house and buy a double-wide trailer on land you don’t own.

            Why go to London, you can visit the city on YouTube? If you lost a piece of valuable jewelry in the ocean, hopefully you were smart enough to have it insured… so you’re out only your deductible. You’ve admitted in the past that you’re not a money guy, but there’s money and there’s common sense.

            Here’s an example that you may understand. I went to college with one guy who has the problem of too much money. His family business boomed and now he makes in the neighborhood of $5 million per year, his brother makes $7 million with no end in sight. Combined their income is $1 million per month. I can guarantee if you’ve been to any conference with a vendor area you’ve had their products in your hand. Both are single, in their 40’s, and have the problem that they are running out of things to invest in, they have houses, rental and commercial property, acres and acres of land in several states, side businesses they own or are partners in, more money than most can imagine invested in the stock market, etc… These are the types of people who buy art at insane prices, knowing that when they get tired of it they can get their money plus more back out of it. It’s either this or start burying it in mason jars where it earns nothing. Before you start with donating part of it, the donate more in a year than everyone here on this blog combined will in our lifetimes. Scholarships are set up at several colleges and universities, from scholarships for trades to athletics. Before bud comments, this wasn’t an inherited business, his brother started it 20 years ago.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I’ll never have that problem, unless by some bizarre accident. Because one thing I am not, and will never be, is a businessman. The things that interest businessmen don’t interest me.

              Nothing against businessmen. My father-in-law was a businessman, and he was a great guy. So is his son who recently sold the business and retired — a good thing, because he had practically worked himself to death on the business, the way his father did. But it was great for them, because they both loved the business. That brother-in-law was the only one of the siblings who had been interested in the business — he had started helping his Dad with it when he was in grade school.

              Different strokes for different folks…

              1. Richard

                How many hours a day would you spend at a newspaper if you owned it? Banker’s hours or would you be putting a cot in your office?

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  In between. I usually worked 50-60 hours in normal times. I’d have to be pretty hands-on. Otherwise, there’s no point..

                  It wouldn’t be an investment. I’d do it to experiment, work on charting the new path for newspapers. If I were able to shell out that kind of money to buy it, I wouldn’t necessarily care about getting my money back out of it. But I WOULD want to work hard at making it profitable, because finding ways to make newspapers profitable again would be one of the greatest contributions I could make to my state and country. Newspapers the size of The State are fading away, and that’s a very bad thing for our democracy, here on the state and local level. You can’t play much of a watchdog role if you don’t have enough people to cover the basics each day. So what’s needed is a new business model…

      1. Richard

        Not your money, to someone buying it as an investment it may turn out to be a smart use of money. This thing sold in 1958 for around $60, the current seller bought it in 2013 for $127 million. Who knows what it’ll be worth in another 4-5 years. Some people said buying stock in Facebook/Amazon/Google/Apple was throwing money away.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’m not interested in spending money to make money. I would only spend money on something I WANT or need. Something that, once spent, I have the thing I want.

          Anyway, if I had $450 million, what would I want with more money?

          1. Richard

            Well I guess that’s one way to look at it… you prefer to work to make money and not have your money make money. That mattress must get pretty lumpy at times.

            Do you care if your house appreciates in value? If yes, why?

          2. Richard

            Let’s dial this back to realistic numbers. Would you be happy if you bought something in 2013 for $127 and today found out it was worth $450 and had someone interested in buying it? What if your parents paid $0.06 for it back in 1958?

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              You’re missing the point here.

              Let’s take this specific case. At times in the past, the provenance of this painting has been in doubt. Right now, it’s regarded as genuine. But a year from now, something could come up and cast doubt on it, and it’s worth basically nothing.

              Also, we’re talking about something that you can only make money on if you find someone who’s a bigger idiot than you are. And $450 million — that’s an almost unique level of idiocy, on this planet.

              Paintings have no value beyond what you can con somebody into paying for them. The value isn’t inherent.

              My point is, if I spend money, I want it to be on things that have value that can’t evaporate in an instant. Things of real and lasting value.

              And in my book, I get basically nothing for owning this painting. I’ve seen pictures of it. It’s nice. Don’t need to own it.

              1. Richard

                Because “idiots” are the only people who have $450 million to blow.

                You’re suggesting buying a newspaper, how is that spending money that won’t likely evaporate in an instant. Are newspaper money printing businesses these days? Take The State for example, could they give it away these days?

  3. David L Carlton

    What’s bizarre is that it’s not all that clear that it’s a “real” Leonardo. An art reporter interviewed on MarketPlace Morning looked at it and thought it was a grab-bag of what one might think *ought* to go into a Leonardo painting. He suspects that it was produced by his assistants–the modern notion of authorship being as incomprehensible to the people of that time as the notion that this piece would someday be an “investment.” It’s like the “original” Mose Tolliver on my own wall; it may have been done by Tolliver (a famous folk artist from Montgomery, BTW), or it may have been done by a family member after Tolliver found out that white folks would actually pay good money for his work. In any case, I didn’t buy it as an “investment”; I bought it because I found his depiction of a black Jesus hanging on a cross to be something that spoke to me. *That’s* the reason to buy art.

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