Picasso insurance offer mocked

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NEW YORK (AP) – A day after filing a lawsuit, casino mogul Steve Wynn said Friday that Lloyd’s of London has made an offer to settle his $54 million claim of lost value for a Picasso after Wynn accidentally poked a hole in the canvas with his elbow.

“They’ve started to negotiate,” he said before quickly adding that the talks aren’t going the way he’d like. “Their offer is ridiculous,” he said, though he declined to give specifics.

He attacked the insurance industry as a whole, saying they play “dirty tricks” and it was standard practice for insurance companies to delay responding to claims in the hopes of wearing down those making claims and getting them to settle for much less than what they are owed.

He accused insurance companies of “irresponsible, careless, inconsiderate and deliberate evasive behavior” that too often works for them.

“Most folks that have insurance can’t afford the legal fees so they take what they get,” he 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 with 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 Thursday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, seeking to force the world’s biggest insurance market to expedite his claims for reimbursement and restoration costs for Picasso’s 1932 work, “Le Reve.”

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

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 – 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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