Casino Magnate Wynn Pokes Lloyd’s Over Damaged Picasso Offer

January 15, 2007

The casino magnate who accidentally poked a hole in a Picasso painting said insurer Lloyd’s of London has offered to settle his $54 million claim of lost value, but the talks aren’t going the way he’d like.

“Their offer is ridiculous,” owner Steve Wynn said. He declined to give specifics, and Lloyd’s declined to comment on the matter.

A day after filing a lawsuit against Lloyd’s, Wynn last Friday attacked the insurance industry as a whole, accusing insurance companies of “irresponsible, careless, inconsiderate and deliberate evasive behavior” that too often works for them.

He said insurers play “dirty tricks” and habitually delay responding to claims, hoping to wear down those making claims and get them to settle for much less than what they are owed.

“Most folks that have insurance can’t afford the legal fees, so they take what they get,” Wynn said in a telephone interview. “There’s only one way to stop this kind of thing, and that is to go to court.”

Carolyn Gorman, a vice president of the Manhattan-based Insurance Information Institute, an insurance trade association funded by property and casualty insurers, said the insurance industry values efficiency and seeks to pay claims as quickly as possible.

“As much as possible, insurance companies try to pay exactly what they owe,” she said. “In this way, they keep the premiums down for the majority of people, so more people can get insurance.”

Wynn filed his lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, seeking to force Lloyd’s to expedite his claims for reimbursement and restoration costs for “Le Reve,” a 1932 Picasso work.

Wynn’s representatives told Lloyd’s in November that the painting was worth $139 million before Wynn damaged it with his elbow in his Las Vegas office on Sept. 30. It was believed to be worth no more than $85 million afterward, they said.

Wynn said he purchased the painting depicting Picasso’s mistress, Marie-Therese Walter, in 2001 from someone who bought it anonymously in 1997 for more than $48 million. Though he said he paid more than the anonymous buyer had paid, he declined to divulge the purchase price.

He said he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to insure the painting with Lloyd’s, the world’s largest insurance market. It is a society of corporate underwriters and wealthy individuals that make insurance transactions through 44 managing agents and 62 syndicates.

Thor Valdmanis, a Lloyd’s spokesman, said Friday: “This is a matter between Mr. Wynn and the several underwriters involved. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for Lloyd’s to comment.”

Wynn has described the damage to the canvas as a thumb-sized flap and said it was “the world’s clumsiest and goofiest thing to do.”

A $90,000 restoration has repaired the painting but left it flawed under black light, he said.

“It’s OK,” he said.

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