Ninety-one-year-old John Werner Kluge is the stuff of the American Dream – a German immigrant who amassed his fortune in the States buying radio and television stations.
He bought his first radio station in Maryland in 1946 for
$15,000. Forty years later he had vaulted to the top spot on the
Forbes list of the richest Americans, having sold his network to
So, what does a man worth over $10bn spend his money on?
Well, this one invests in restaurant chains, medical and light
technology, gourmet beef and collects everything from Australian
aboriginal art to Baroque and Biedermeier furniture. He also enjoys
a good picnic.
Amongst the contents of Morven, a Colonial period Virginian estate
with a history of distinguished owners and important associations,
acquired by Kluge in 1988 and gifted to the University of Virginia
in 2001, was the mother of all picnic hampers. It was offered for
sale by Christie's New York on December 16.
Perhaps in anticipation of buying his new home, where he hosted
frequent shoots for his guests, Kluge commissioned the wicker and
brass-mounted hamper from Asprey's in 1987. The 'off the shelf'
models were really far too small.
Instead, with around $150,000 to spend, he envisaged something
that most of us could not fit in the garage.
The main hamper, fashioned in two parts with brass carrying
handles, leather straps, and hinged lids, sits nicely on a steel
trailer and requires four 12-volt batteries to power six hot-cold
boxes and a water pump. Inside is a chief picnic hamper that, like
a Russian doll, opens to reveal various wicker hampers, each
labelled appropriately for china, glassware, cutlery, bar, thermos
flasks, miscellaneous, garbage, and spares.
That means: a 137-piece Elizabeth II silver table service with the
mark of Asprey, London, 1987, a 113-piece staghorn-handled part
table and bar service, 16 Elizabeth II horn and silver cups, the
body applied with a large initial K and the mark of Asprey,
Birmingham, 1987, a 79-piece Baccarat stemware service and a
118-piece Bernardaud (Limoges) cream porcelain dinner service
decorated with the monogram K plus the Kluge shotgun and bird
Naturally, with such a table setting, the two folding mahogany
tables and 16 folding and monogrammed mahogany chairs are a
necessity and in case of confusion Asprey supplied an embossed
leather instruction manual.
Christie's thought such late 20th century opulence might attract a
bid in the $20,000-30,000 range, but the opportunity to beat the
Joneses once and for all prompted a private buyer to part with
$120,000/£70,600 plus 20/12% buyer's premium.
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