Ezra Merkin, the financier who steered $1.8 billion into Bernie Madoff's pockets, officially stepped down today as the chairman of GMAC, the financing arm of General Motors. The move was widely expected given the reputation-shattering events of the past few weeks, a staggeringly swift fall for a resident of New York's richest apartment building and the president of one of the city's most prominent synagogues. But when there's blood in the water, the sharks turn up for dinner, which is why Merkin's art adviser, Ben Heller, says his phone is ringing off the hook.
Heller helped Merkin assemble one of the largest collections of Rothko paintings—he estimates the works are worth at $150 million—and although Merkin hasn't placed them on the market, Heller has been inundated with calls from interested buyers. So are they for sale? "Everything has a price," Heller says cryptically. (Heller also helps explain how/why Kyra Sedgwick is connected to the Madoff mess: Heller, who says he, too, lost millions as an investor in Merkin's funds, is Sedgwick's step-father.)
Heller doesn't say who it is that has called him about discount Rothkos. But we'd be very surprised if he hasn't heard from Bob Mnuchin or his son Steve. Or maybe Steve just asked Merkin himself? After all, he only lives one floor up from Merkin at 740 Park.