At last month's orgy of consumption that was the Yves Saint-Laurent's art auction, a $28 million armchair claimed the prize for decadence. Now The Economist has revealed the mogul who flaunted his obscene wealth:
The publication says it was Henry Kravis, the Wall Street titan known for playing primarily with other people's money. Of course, the person holding the paddle in Paris was dealer Cheska Vallois, who has been suspected of secretly making purchases for Kravis before. In 2004, rumor had it that Kravis had purchased an entire suite of furniture by early 20th-century designer Armand-Albert Rateau through her.
Update: Kravis says it wasn't him! He emails: "Unfortunately, Owen Thomas' article on the Eileen Gray Chair which sold for $26 million is completely wrong. The chair was NOT purchased by Henry Kravis." Of course, he leaves plenty of wiggle room that Vallois may have been working on behalf of someone related to him (say, his wife and Museum of Modern Art chairwoman Marie-Josée Kravis). KKR global communications director Peter McKillop followed up with this email: "There is no wiggle room here. I can categorically deny that neither Henry Kravis, nor anyone in his family, purchased the chair in question." McKillop and Kravis have a point in their artfully worded denials of the Economist report: Technically, Cheska Vallois purchased it. But for whom? Tuesday Update: And now The Economist has issued a correction: "Mr Kravis assures us that neither he nor anyone in his family bought the chair in question. Our apologies to all concerned."
Just not ones who invested with Kravis. KKR Private Equity and KKR Financial, two publicly traded affiliates of Kravis's KKR & Co. buyout firm, have had heavy writedowns on their stakes in debt-laden firms and mortgage and corporate bonds. KPE, which raised $5 billion in 2006, is down 91 percent; KFN is down 95 percent since its 2005 IPO.