The New York Times goes after Peter Brant as diminished figure of the boom years, trying to hang the man for hubris. Instead, they get an interview with the newsprint tycoon. It’s well known that White Birch–a private company–has restructured its debt based upon the collapse of newsprint prices caused by the fall of advertising expenditures. Rumors coming from the legal community also say that White Birch is cannily constructed and Brant has protected himself well. Nonetheless, the Times story will be of interest for several reasons. If you’ve wanted to know more about Brant’s business dealing and, of course, for a better understanding of Brant’s art holdings and practices. In the interest of brevity and not to republish too much of the Times’s story here, we’ll concentrate on the art. (Pay particular attention to the comments about Brant’s art dealing at the end):
One person in the art market who has negotiated with Mr. Brant described him as a rather exasperating customer. “Even if you’ve done a bad deal with him before, the stuff he’s got is usually so good that you have to listen to him,” this person said, requesting anonymity because nobody wants to poison a relationship with a major buyer and seller. “You figure it out. And you hope you have your fingers left when you’re done.” […]MR. BRANT was drawn to money and art early on. [. . . S]chool was no match for his love for the stock market, and he sometimes skipped class to trade at a nearby brokerage house. His family had given him about $8,000, which he says he parlayed into several hundred thousand dollars as an undergraduate. […] He used the money to buy his first pieces of art, which included a couple of Warhols and, later, what he called “a major Franz Kline.” […] Flush with cash, Mr. Brant began collecting art in earnest, eventually buying so many Warhols that the artist asked to meet him. The two would have a somewhat complicated relationship. Mr. Brant was awed by Mr. Warhol and says he felt an instinctive urge to protect him. Mr. Warhol was impressed with Mr. Brant’s business acumen — he was the rare corporate success story in Mr. Warhol’s circle — but found him a little overzealous.
“It got to the point where Andy was a little worried that Peter owned too much of his work,” says Bob Colacello, a former editor of Interview. “He would say, ‘Peter wants everything.’ Andy was a control freak, and Peter can be quite controlling, too.” Mr. Brant stuck with Mr. Warhol, collecting his work through the ’70s and ’80s, when the artist was unfashionable and best known for commissioned portraits of well-heeled patrons and a cameo on “The Love Boat.” Mr. Brant’s dedication paid off. Prices for Mr. Warhol’s work have soared since his death in 1987. Mr. Brant says that over the last year, his art collection has been more lucrative than his newsprint business.
For Richer or . . . . Not Quite As Rich (New York Times)