One of the more apocryphal tales told about the late Australian business tycoon Christopher Skase, a posterboy for 80s decadence and cowboy entrepreneurialism, is that he sent a private jet from Port Douglas in far north Queensland to Melbourne to pick up a dress for his wife.
Skase, a stockbroker and former finance journalist with a knack for courting headlines, who then turned into a Queensland property developer (the Sheraton Mirage resort in Port Douglas was his), became Australia’s most famous corporate fugitive after his company, Qintex, collapsed in spectacular fashion – he’d owned the Seven TV network, a Brisbane footy club and five resorts — and he fled Australia owing hundreds of millions of dollars and facing multiple charge of corporate impropriety.
At its height, Quintex made Skase a billionaire, with the company valued at more than $1.5 billion when he made an ambitious $1.2 billion bid to buy the film company MGM in 1989, only to have the deal fall over when he failed to provide a $50 million letter of credit demanded by the film business as proof of his bona fides.
The “chase for Skase” resulted after revelations of his ongoing lavish lifestyle in Majorca in Spain became a cause celebre during the 1990s (it even spawned a satirical film). Comedian and TV host Andrew Denton created the crowdfunding prototype on the ABC when he asked people to donate towards hiring a bounty hunter to kidnap Skase and return him to Australia, raising $250,000 in pledges before the lawyers kyboshed the project.
The government of the day under John Howard also spent millions along with the Qintex liquidator trying to extradite Skase.
But after many years of claiming to be too ill to travel, the entrepreneur proved his detractors wrong and died of cancer in 2001, aged 54.
His wife Pixie returned to Australia nearly a decade ago, and now lives in Melbourne. This Thursday she is auctioning a range of personal items — jewellery, clothing and art, with around 200 items expected to raise around $100,000.
Among the items going under the hammer are her husband’s monogrammed Louis Vuitton briefcase (estimate $1,000-1,500) and a wall clock Christopher was given by MGM during the failed bid (est. $160-240) and lots of sterling silver photo frames.
There’s also an important lesson for investors in the Pixie Skase Collection when Leonard Joel auctions it in Melbourne this Thursday — Hermes clothing is a poor long-term investment. Pixie Skase has more than a dozen silk and wool Hermes items up for sale, from blouses to cardigans at two-piece sets, priced between $100 and $300 — a lot less than the landing fees for a corporate jet in Melbourne. By contrast a Hermes ashtray featuring a snow scene has a price estimate of $200-400.
Thursday’s auction reveals Pixie, now 78, certainly had a thing for Hermes. Along with a tray and tie rack by the fashion house, Skase is selling more than two dozen Hermes scarves.
Full details on the auction can be found on the Leonard Joel site here.
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