Emboldened by Singapore’s unfreezing of some of his assets, beleaguered owner of Nature Le Coultre and key figure in the development of Freeports Yves Bouvier has given an aggressive interview with a local Swiss news outlet. In the interview, Bouvier vows to take some revenge on Dimitri Rybolovlev, his former client who has accused him of mis-representing sales to make outsized margins (quotes are translated by Google):
He, like his lawyer, she was involved in transactions. They deceived justice and destroyed my reputation. I will destroy the only thing that affects the Russian billionaire refuge in Monaco: his fortune. By engaging in this battle, he has already “burned” his collection. Would he sell it now that he did not get half of its value!
Bouvier also explained how he came to represent Rybolovlev:
Rybolovlev I met ten years ago, when he missed the certificate of authenticity accompanying his first canvas; I offered to make them more square things by controlling the title and transfer of ownership, authenticity, transport, formalities … In addition, Mr. Rybolovlev is an avid collector and a sophisticated investor, he proclaimed himself as consultant art can not ignore how the art market.
Finally, and perhaps most important to his main business, Bouvier makes a statement about his role as an art advisor and his access to information through the Freeports. The statement is most likely true but surely will be met with more skepticism than credulity:
I never violated my confidentiality and canvassed a client Natural Le Coultre to offer him to sell a properly stored. […] I do not know what is stored in the Free Ports. My shopping activity, my value is to have a network and credibility such that I could call any great art dealer and ask him to go to a collector propose an amount for one of his works . They will respond as soon as they have this confidence – they know the costs of transport and insurance, hundreds of thousands of francs, will be settled. My reputation is paramount, regardless of the amount, if I confirm a purchase orally for one of my companies, the case is definitively made and payment is executed.
Bouvier may not have had access to the contents of the Freeports but it seems more likely that Rybolovlev worked with him under a different impression.
Update: The Financial Times’s Georgina Adam picks up on this story and adds a comment that demonstrates one of the biggest problems with the freeport issue: journalists either don’t know or don’t care to ask how the freeports are structured. In the case of Bouvier, NLC and his ownership of the Geneva, Luxembourg and Singapore freeports, Bouvier would not have knowledge of the contents of the freeport from his ownership interest in the building which is separate from his ownership of NLC which leases space in all three freeports. As owner of NLC, he is not meant to know what customers place in the storage facilities he provides. Only the local customs in Luxembourg, Singapore and Geneva are given information on what goes into the customers’ storage area.
So the surprise Adam hints at here should not be a surprise. What is unknown in this story is how much Rybolovlev was led to believe Bouvier was trading on the knowledge he now abjures:
Claiming that the freeze on his assets ordered — and now lifted — in a Singapore court had severely impacted his business, Bouvier said he will be seeking about €65m in damages and debt recovery from Rybolovlev. He also affirmed that he did not know what was stored in his freeports — something that will certainly surprise many.
The Art Market: Feuds and fairs (FT.com)