It’s his collection of World War II-era warcraft, however, that’s the focus of a lawsuit filed on his behalf this week in San Mateo County Superior Court.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Vulcan Warbirds, one of Allen’s companies, is suing the Collings Foundation over a rare Panzer IV, a vintage tank that Allen says he paid $US2.5 million for in July.
The tank was built in 1944 and used by the German army in World War II. One of only 38 complete Panzers in the world, it was bought by Syria in the 1950s, then was captured by Israelis in 1967 before being retired to the Israeli Armour Museum. In 2003, it was purchased by the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation in Portola Valley, California, and it was eventually donated to the Stow, Massachusetts-based Collings Foundation in July 2014.
Collings put the Panzer IV up for auction later that month, along with some other pieces from the collection that were donated to the foundation.
Allen, who has a passion for vintage military vehicles, jumped at the chance to add the tank to his collection. Allen’s Vulcan Warbirds buys planes and other warcraft and leases them to the Flying Heritage Collection, based in Everett, Washington. He already counts a $US45,000 M55 Howitzer and a $US349,000 Soviet missile among his collection, and the organisation recently opened a “tank arena” to put all of his vintage military equipment on display.
“Warbirds has been seeking to find a Panzer IV Tank for over five years,” the lawsuit says, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Panzer IV Tanks are extremely rare and rarely are available for sale. Once acquired, the Panzer IV Tank will be on display at the museum.”
According to the Vulcan Warbirds suit, Allen paid the Collings Foundation a total of $US4.2 million, including $US2.5 million for the Panzer IV. The sale price had allegedly been negotiated between Vulcan Warbirds and a representative from Auctions America, which had arranged the auction.
The lawsuit centres on what happened next. Almost a month after the sale allegedly went down, Rob Collings, executive director of the Collings Foundation, told the Flying Heritage Collection that they never agreed to transfer the tank to Allen’s company. Collings said he would honour the sale only if the foundation could find another tank to replace it.
“We do not have an agreement to sell a Panzer IV to Paul Allen or Flying Heritage Collection or Vulcan or any of his companies,” Collings told the Los Angeles Times. “I heard the comment made from someone at Flying Heritage Collection that this was a case of seller’s remorse. No it was not. We didn’t ever sell it.”
The court issued a temporary restraining order for the Panzer, which is still in Collings’ Portola Valley showroom.
Vulcan Warbirds had this statement regarding the suit: “Auctions America has failed to honour our agreement and yesterday we sued it and the Collings Foundation, the former owner of the tank, to enforce our contract. We look forward to restoring the Panzer IV Tank and having it join our Sherman tank and other historic military aircraft and vehicles at the Flying Heritage Collection.”
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