Bruun Rasmussen distances himself from former director: ‘Not acceptable’

It was not right that Jesper Bruun Rasmussen bought a painting that his company had assessed without telling the sellers.

This is the opinion of auction house Bruun Rasmussen, who distanced himself from his former director in a press release.

“Bruun Rasmussen is today under new management and new ownership. No one in the current management was involved in the matter. The behavior depicted in the program is not acceptable. Bruun Rasmussen follows the highest standards of integrity,” reads a press release from current CEO Jakob Dupont.

The program in question, ‘The secret trade of the auction house’was broadcast on TV 2 on Thursday evening and revealed a previously secret audio file, which gives new life to a haunted case from 2013.

Here, the heirs of the rich man Hans Smith – who at the time went by the name Substralking for his success in selling the popular fertilizer – tried to sell a painting of their father, which the legendary pop art artist Andy Warhol had produced.

According to Bruun Rasmussen, the work could be sold for 600,000. But the portrait was not sold.

Not before an anonymous buyer bid 550,000 kroner and ran with the painting.

Despite the decline in the price, the heirs were satisfied with the sale.

At least until they later learned by detours that the buyer was none other than Jesper Bruun Rasmussen.

That is, the man whose company had set the price. And whose company took a handsome fee for having sold the painting to its own owner.

“We have been cheated. It’s unethical,’ says one of Hans Smith’s daughters, Pernille Storup, in the TV 2 documentary.

Later she found out that the painting was worth more. Worth significantly more actually.

And Jesper Bruun Rasmussen probably knew that, she is convinced. In the same period, he was at an auction fair in London, where a similar Andy Warhol painting of Hans Smith’s wife, Cardi Smith, had been offered for a much higher price than the 600,000 kroner.

To TV 2, Jesper Bruun Rasmussen denies having done anything wrong by offering himself as an anonymous buyer.

“No one else wanted to buy it. Then I bought it. There is no one who can forbid me,’ he says, adding that he asked the auction house in question in London if they would buy his copy.

They wouldn’t. Therefore, he has not earned anything from the maneuver.

Here you can see the mentioned portrait of Hans Smith.
Photo: Ulf Hedin / TV 2

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And the former owner and chairman of the board of the auction house Bruun Rasmussen also went free when he was arrested in 2018 and charged with attempted fraud. To the police, he denied knowing what the portrait of Hans Smith’s wife had been sold for. He had only bought his painting because he figured it might one day be worth money.

And it certainly was. It was recently sold for just over 1.1 million Danish kroner. So double the original price.

It was just not Jesper Bruun Rasmussen himself who earned the money.

A few years ago, the heirs polished off a lawyer on the auction boss who eventually agreed to sell the painting back to them.

TV 2 has asked Bruun Rasmussen how often the auction house’s own people have volunteered as anonymous buyers and sellers, without informing the sellers about it, but it has not wanted to answer that.

In a hidden audio recording that TV 2 has obtained, however, it sounds as if the Andy Warhol case is not a lone swallow.

“I wasn’t shocked. It was quite common. It happened every three to four months. Now it was just this case,” says Claus Poulsen, who was managing director of Bruun Rasmussen when the Andy Warhol work was sold.

During the recorded conversation, which takes place during a lunch between him and two other men, he is asked whether Jesper Bruun Rasmussen has ‘been cunning, or has he just been a chance rider’.

“It’s a lack of recognition that you can be caught for something you shouldn’t. After all, nothing ever happened,’ replies the former managing director.

Jesper Bruun Rasmussen has been made aware of the audio recording, but maintains that, despite his status, he has bought and sold on an equal footing with everyone else.

‘Auktionshuset’s secret trade’ can be seen on TV 2 Play.

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