RK has received several emails questioning whether our version of what happened with donald ellis, owner of the Donald ellis gallery in New York, New York and Dundas, Canada, is correct.
To answer those emails here is the article published in the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper after the trial finished.
The reporter, Tom Sharp, attended the trial and here is his article:
Judge: Mexican serape dealer breached contract
Official: Canadian must restore, research and market piece, but two should just terminate agreement
The New Mexican
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
A judge has ruled an antiques dealer breached a contract with another dealer over a Mexican serape that one claims is an 18th-century masterpiece worth at least $150,000, but the judge declined to award any damages.
State District Judge Jim Hall told the two dealers their 9-year-old purchase agreement remains in effect, making the dealer with the serape responsible for restoring it and researching its history to make it more valuable.
But Hall suggested the dealer who bought the serape return it to the seller and get his money back so there is no need for the two to deal with each other any more.
Neither party seemed pleased with Wednesday's ruling after a two-day, nonjury trial that included conflicting testimony from several experts in antique textiles.
Jack Cassin, a New Hampshire resident who lives part time in Santa Fe, sued Donald Ellis, a Canadian citizen now living in New York City, a year ago, alleging breaches of contract, implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and fiduciary duty.
Cassin said while he and Ellis were in Santa Fe in 1999, Ellis agreed to pay Cassin $50,000 "for possession of the serape," and the two would share in any proceeds from Ellis' sale of the serape over $50,000. Ellis also agreed to arrange for restoration and cleaning of the serape and for professional research into its history and provenance to improve its marketability, according to Cassin's complaint.
The complaint says Ellis agreed the serape, woven between 1750 and 1775 in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico, was worth at least $175,000 and possibly as much as $250,000. But according to testimony, when Ellis first offered it for sale at an antiques auction in New York City in 2000, he asked only $85,000, and later reduced the asking price to $65,000.
But the serape never sold. Cassin said outside the court that he asked Ellis several times over the next seven years about the status of "our serape." But Ellis did not answer directly until last year, when "he said to me, 'It's hanging on my bedroom wall. It'll stay there as long as I want,' " Cassin said. "At that point, I realized that nothing was ever going to happen." Cassin said Ellis later said the serape is in a Denver art gallery.
Ellis declined comment Wednesday as he left court.
During the trial, Cassin's lawyer, Randy Felker of Santa Fe, asked Ellis if he had lied about having a college degree in an interview with the New York Times. Ellis said, "A great deal represented in the press is greatly erroneous."
In his closing arguments, Felker said Ellis had never done any "real scholarship" on the serape, but only read one book by an expert in Saltillo textiles, one magazine article on the same and several auction catalogs. Felker accused Ellis of trying to sell the serape cheaply "to ensure himself a quick profit at Jack Cassin's expense."
Ellis' lawyer, Christopher Grimmer of Santa Fe, said the agreement makes clear Ellis had purchased the serape not that he had entered into a partnership with Cassin. Although the contract calls for Ellis and Cassin to share in restoration and research costs, Grimmer said, "nothing in the contract says Mr. Ellis is required to do anything."
Grimmer said Ellis met all his obligations to market the serape by putting it in "a beautiful catalog and displaying it prominently at one of the most serious antique shows in the world." Cassin's claims the serape is worth more than $150,000 are not credible, "given the obvious passion he has for this piece," Grimmer said.
Judge Hall began by thanking all parties for an interesting and educational trial. But he said going to trial was not a good business decision for either side. Hall said the agreement did not create a partnership, although Ellis clearly breached his contractual obligations to restore the serape, research its history and actively market it. After the 2000 show, Hall said, "very little was done."
However, the judge said, he saw no proof Cassin was harmed financially by Ellis' failures. The fact that no one offered to buy the serape for $85,000 or even $65,000, Hall told Cassin, "is real-world information that this item is not at the level of demand that you think it should be." Hall said claims of a higher value are "wishful speculation" and "wildly inconsistent."
Hall said the purchase contract, along with Ellis' obligations, remain in effect. But given that they "disagree dramatically" over the serape's value and "don't have a productive relationship," the judge said, "the obvious solution is to give it back and give him his money back." Hall told Grimmer to prepare an order reflecting his oral ruling within 30 days.
By the way, very soon after the trial according to statements from ellis, the weaving was sold.
And, not only did he ever do any of the scholarship or research the judges verdict instructed him to do "to make it more valuable", he has never agreed to substantiate who he sold it to or for what price.
Does anyone need more proof about our statements?