More than a century after the Titanic went down, so goes the company that owns 5,500 artifacts from the doomed ocean liner.
As part of its bankruptcy proceedings, Premier Exhibitions is auctioning off its gigantic collection of Titanic artifacts, to be held at Troutman Sanders’ Atlanta headquarters at 10 a.m. on Oct. 11.
Troutman is bankruptcy counsel for RMS Titanic, a Premier Exhibitions subsidiary that is the exclusive steward of the ocean liner’s wreck site in the North Atlantic. The Titanic sank on its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912.
In addition to its Titanic exhibition, Premier, based in Peachtree City, is best known for Bodies: The Exhibition, Xtreme BUGS! and Dinosaurs Alive!
The auction is not for the casual souvenir-hunter. Interested parties must submit a minimum bid of $21.5 million by 4 p.m. on Oct. 5 to take part, along with a 10 percent cash deposit to show they’re serious. Bids at the Oct. 11 auction will be in $500,000 increments. Bidders must also document to the sellers’ satisfaction that they have the means to pay, if they should win the auction.
The artifacts range from a 17-ton section of the Titanic’s hull to the golden cherub from its grand staircase to china, jewelry and passenger baggage—including one with sixty-five perfume vials (scents intact) belonging to a Manchester perfumer, Adolphe Saafeld, en route to New York. There are also paper documents and clothing in the collection. Anything packed in a leather suitcase or container survived intact, because tanning chemicals used at that time repel underwater microbes, according to the company’s website.
RMS Titanic also owns the salvage rights to the Titanic and intellectual property, such as footage of its wreck-diving expeditions. After oceanographer Robert Ballard discovered the sunken liner in 1985, RMS Titanic bankrolled the first expedition in 1987 to retrieve artifacts from the Titanic site two miles below the sea, using manned submersibles, and it has conducted eight expeditions in all.
There is an appetite for individual Titanic items. Things retrieved by survivors that are separate from the RMS Titanic collection have sold for big bucks, including a violin recovered from the body of the ship’s band leader, which went for $1.45 million, and a fur coat donned by a crew member that brought $235,000, according to Bloomberg. A cracker from a survival kit sold for $23,000.
But the sellers want to keep the collection intact, which narrows the field of potential buyers.
A consortium of hedge funds has submitted a minimum offer of $19.5 million, made up of Apollo Global Management, Alta Fundamental Advisors and PacBridge Capital Partners.
A group of British museums backed by Titanic filmmaker Robert Cameron, had previously offered $19.2 million. Their plan would be to display the collection at the National Maritime Museum of Ireland in Belfast, where the Titanic was built, at the National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland and at the National Maritime Museum in London.
Consult the Bridge Procedures Order from the bankruptcy filing for more information on the auction, including where to send bids. Harris Winsberg and Matthew Brooks are the Troutman lawyers for the case.
The bankruptcy case is RMS Titanic Inc., 3:16-bk-02230, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of Florida. Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough is debtors’ counsel to Premier.
This story has been corrected to reflect that Premier shareholder Daoping Bao is not a member of the hedge fund consortium.