The Titanic pictured off the coast of Queenstown (now Cobh) in Cork, Ireland. Image: National Maritime Museum, London

Hedge fund group outbids museum consortium for Titanic artefacts

Jasper Hart, 26.09.2018
Competing offers must be made by 5 October
A group of hedge funds has launched a rival bid against a consortium of British museums to purchase more than 5,000 artefacts from the wreck of the Titanic. The items are being sold off after the American company that owns the collection, Premier Exhibitions, went bankrupt.

The museums, which include National Museums Northern Ireland, Titanic Belfast and Royal Museums Greenwich, are currently fundraising towards a bid of US$19.2m (around £14.6m) that was made in July. But a group of hedge funds led by Apollo Global Management, which specialises in the purchase of property from companies in financial difficulty, has launched a rival bid of $19.5m (approximately £14.9m).

Competing offers must be made by 5 October and begin at $21.5m. If there are competing bids, a bankruptcy auction will occur on 11 October.

Regardless of the outcome, the case will then proceed to the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in the US.

Kevin Fewster, the director of the National Maritime Museum, said: “We feel that we have something of an obligation to secure this collection, because if we don't there is a strong chance that the collection will be optioned off piecemeal or will go to a commercial buyer who could end up in exactly the same position as the current one.

“There is an incredibly diverse array of materials. There’s even a section of the hull wall that is about 7.5m by 4m with all its riveting and four portholes. To see that on display in Belfast looking out on the very slip where the ship was built would be amazing.”

Other items include lumps of coal used in the ships boilers, and thousands of personal effects belonging to passengers from all social classes. Premier Exhibitions previously used the artefacts in travelling exhibitions.

A judge overseeing the bankruptcy case ruled that the collection must be sold as a whole. It has been estimated that the items could fetch more than $200m at auction if sold separately.

The successful buyer will get the right to further salvage the wreckage site. However, Fewster says that the consortium would aim to leave the site undisturbed if its bid is successful.