Patrizzi: No Irregularities at Antiquorum

Osvaldo Patrizzi, founder of Antiquorum S.A, says an independent audit finds no irregularities by him in its financial operations. He has filed civil and criminal complaints as recently as late November, in Geneva, Switzerland, and in United States, challenging actions by Antiquorum’s new operators.

Patrizzi also contends ArtistHouse Holdings, the Japanese conglomerate which bought 50 percent of Antiquorum almost two years ago, still owes him $3.76 million from that purchase.

Patrizzi and former top officials of the international fine watch auction house, made their allegations in a Nov. 30 press conference in Geneva, where they challenged actions by Antiquorum’s new operators, who forced them out this summer.

Both the old and new managements of Antiquorum held competing press conferences Nov. 30, each denouncing the other, and each saying it has filed civil and criminal complaints against the other. The new management’s session was held in the morning, where John Tsukahara, now Antiquorum’s president and chief executive officer, said the company filed its complaints against “the former management” for alleged financial irregularities,” based on a forensic audit by independent auditor PriceWaterhouseCooper, ordered after Patrizzi and the others were let go in August.

Patrizzi said the accusations were “false,” at his session in a hotel across the street from Antiquorum’s headquarters in the early afternoon. (He spoke long-distance by phone from New York City, where he was involved in a long-scheduled meeting on a “new concept” for an auction house.) Those at the Patrizzi session included his lawyers; Christian Masson of Geneva, a Swiss auditing firm he hired; Marc Schumacher, former chief operating officer, and Leo Verhoeven, former chief financial officer.

They contend that a June 15 shareholders meeting in New York, where the new board was approved, and the Aug. 2 board meeting where Patrizzi was dismissed, were “irregular” and “in violation of all the rules,” including alleged failure to register the new administrators in Geneva, and use of “a fictitious majority [and] usurped voices.”

Patrizzi—who allegedly was denied access to the PriceWaterhouseCooper findings–presented a report by another independent audit firm, Christian Masson of Geneva, which he hired to do a special audit for him. While it noted “no access has been possible to the accounting and other documents of Antiquorum,” under the new operators, it did use other documents “from different sources.” Based on those, Christian Masson reported, “we have not found any irregularity” by Patrizzi, either concerning several disputed timepieces nor sizeable amounts of money transferred between him and Antiquorum

“Antiquorum’s new management is trying to justify their past actions by pretending now that Osvaldo Patrizzi stole money,” claimed Schumacher, who alleged they used “defamatory and false documents, or at least did not give all the documents,” to PriceWaterhouseCooper, so it would “come to that conclusion.”

Resolution of the some of the civil and criminal complaints could come as early as 2008, but is more likely to take years, according to sources.