The case of Blackstone’s Tom Hill and the Pontormo he bought in Britain but now cannot leave the country is fascinating for what it reveals—or doesnt’ reveal—about Hill’s motivations.
Hill bought a Pontormo portrait from a faded English aristocratic family for £30m. The UK public was called upon to raise money to match the sum. While that process took place, the referendum on the UK’s participation in the European Union took place and the British pound fell substantially.
That left Hill in a bad spot. He had paid for the painting. But his reimbursement would be $7-10m less than what he had converted to pounds prior to the Brexit vote. So Hill dug in his heels and won’t sell, even if he can’t take the painting out of England.
All of that has been reported. Now Hill’s people have gone to the Telegraph to complain that the banker is being portrayed unfairly.
Roland Foord, who represented Mr Hill at legal firm Stephenson Harwood, said the art collector had been left “bruised” after being unfairly painted as the “bad character in the cast”, and could not have been expected to absorb such a heavy financial loss.
The timing was bad luck for Hill. But it isn’t clear whom he thinks he’s negotiating against. That he is negotiating is evident from this line in the Telegraph’s story.
The painting is also understood to have risen significantly in value, as the art market moved on in the interim.
The paintings value has actually fallen significantly in value since because of the export ban. That really leaves Hill with two choices. He can keep the painting in the UK or sell it and keep the money in pounds until such time as the dollar falls or the pound rises.