A company that owns 5,500 relics from the sunken luxury liner R.M.S. Titanic won approval for a proposed sale of the artifacts, with the chief executive officer leading a group that’s kicking off the bidding for the items.
A $19.5 million offer from the group, led by Premier Exhibitions Inc. CEO and director Daoping Bao, will be the opening bid for the collection at an October auction, according to court filings. Bao is also the company’s largest shareholder.
A unit of the Atlanta-based company that retrieved or acquired thousands of artifacts from the ill-fated liner filed for bankruptcy protection in 2016. It proposed selling the collection, which includes jewelry, clothing and statutes. Along with the relics, the rights to salvage additional items from the 107-year-old wreck are also up for sale.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Paul Glenn Tuesday ruled executives of the Premier unit will have until mid-October to accept bids for the collection, which had once been valued at almost $190 million.
Glenn, based in Jacksonville, Florida, has scheduled an Oct. 18 hearing to consider which bid is highest and best for the collection and the salvage rights. A federal judge in Norfolk, Virginia, who oversees salvage activities at the wreck, must also approve any sale.
The judge in Virginia has put in place restrictions that would make it difficult for the collection to be sold piecemeal. Bao’s group, which includes investment funds such as Hong Kong-based PacBridge Capital Partners Ltd. and U.S.-based Apollo Global Management, has vowed to keep the artifacts together.
The Premier unit’s shareholders pushed Glenn to allow only some of the relics to be auctioned off to satisfy their $10 million in claims. A group of U.K.-based museums opposed that idea, saying they’d like to acquire the entire collection of Titanic artifacts.
Glenn rejected the shareholders’ plan to break off a group of relics to be sold because it lacked “creditor acceptance and adequate funding,’’ according to the filing.
Premier organizes Titanic displays around the world, including at the Queen Mary hotel in Long Beach, California, the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, and the Guangdong Museum in China. In recent years, the business was expanded to include exhibitions such as animatronic dinosaurs, human cadavers and bugs, along with sets and props from the Saturday Night Live TV show.
The case is RMS Titanic Inc., 16-02230, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of Florida (Jacksonville).
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