Saudi prince has history of extravagant impulse purchases


Timothy A. Clary | AFP | Getty Images

Christie’s employees take bids for Leonardo da Vincis ‘Salvator Mundi’ at Christie’s New York November 15, 2017. A 500-year-old work of art depicting Jesus Christ, believed to be the work of Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci, sold in New York on Wednesday for $450.3 million setting a new art auction record, Christie’s said. ‘Salvator Mundi,’ which the auction house dates back to around 1500, sold after 18 minutes of frenzied bidding in a historic sale, the star lot of the November art season in the US financial capital.

News that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman bought the $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting came as a shock to the Western world.

But to those who have followed the Prince, it’s just the latest in a series of jaw-dropping purchases.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Prince Mohammed was the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvatore Mundi,” which was auctioned off at Christie’s last month for $450 million – the highest price ever paid for a work of art.

Initially, the New York Times reported that the buyer was Prince Bander, a friend of Prince Mohammed’s. But the Wall Street Journal reports that Prince Bander bought it as a “proxy” for Prince Mohammed.

The news is sure to send ripples through the Middle East – not just because the leader of a Muslim nation bought a portrait of Christ. But also because Prince Mohammed is leading a crackdown on corruption and imposing new austerity measures in Saudi Arabia.

Yet the 32-year-old Crown Prince’s purchase is just the latest of his nine-figure shopping sprees. Two years ago, he was vacationing in the South of France and admired a 440-foot yacht in the distance, owned by Russian vodka magnate Yuri Shefler. The Prince sent an aide to buy the ship for over $500 million. Shefler sold it, moved off and turned the ship over to the Prince the same day.

He is also building a giant resort near Jidda, with seven palaces for the family – all built around a giant artificial lake in the shape of a flower.

It’s unclear where the da Vinci will hang. But at least for a while, it will go to the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The Saudis have not yet responded to CNBC’s request for comment.

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