ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Monday, October 30, 2006

A $139 Million Elbow

I live in Valparaiso, Indiana, and so my New Yorker comes long after my friends back in New York City have lost all interest in its content.  So forgive me if you have moved on, but I was struck by this Nick Paumgarten entry in Talk of the Town.  The article recounts not one but two broken promises that apparently will not result in law suits.

The subject of the first promise is a celebrated Picasso painting, "Le Reve," owned by Steve Wynn, a casino magnate and art collector.  Wynn had recently agreed to sell the painting to a friend for $139 million.  The painting had been inspected and the only performance remaining on the contract was the actual exchange of the painting and the money. 

Before that exchange could take place, however, Wynn decided to show the painting to some friends, who were visiting from New York.  While so doing, Wynn accidentally put his elbow through the painting.  Understandably, Wynn was initially upset by his blunder ("Oh. shit. Oh, man."), but after he and his out-of-town guests shared a six-litre bottle of Bourdeaux, he was inclined to be more philosophical: "It's a picture, it's my picture, we'll fix it."  Wynn concluded that the exchange was never fated to occur.  Relying on the implied elbow-of-god provision in the purchase and sale agreement, Wynn called his friend and told him the deal was off.

The second promise relates to the out-of-town guests.  They all promised not to discuss the incident.  But Nora Ephron has since seen the New Yorker article and considers herself released from her promise.  Speculation abounds as to who was the original leaker.

[Jeremy Telman]

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