Was NY Met-Italy Deal A Bloomberg-Berlusconi Pact?
Was Met-Italy Deal A Bloomberg-Berlusconi Pact First Struck Offshore?
By Suzan Mazur
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Side-by-side: Tucker's Town, Bermuda hideaways of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg (left) and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (right). - Photos The Royal Gazette, Bermuda
It's privately gated - Tucker's Town, Bermuda. Who comes and goes is not public information. But that they've talked antiquities, maybe even had a serious dinner conversation over she-crab soup and mako shark while sketching out possible title transfer of Italy's highly important antiquities from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art seems more likely than not.
I'm talking, of course, about two of Bermuda's richest residents and next-door neighbors: Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi and New York City mayor and Met trustee, Michael Bloomberg.
Afterall, it was in Berlusconi's $6.99 million retreat in Tucker's Town in the summer of 2000 that he and key advisors drafted the manifesto to secure his return from exile and save Italy from the Commies. Was a similar plan crafted there at his Blue Horizons estate for a return of the world's most famous vase -- the 2,500 year old Euphronios?
Who can say? According to former Reuters
reporter Toni Straka, who covered Bermuda from a sailboat in
Ely's Harbour and now writes a financial blog from Vienna,
most of what passes for news on Bermuda is gossip (because
of the secrecy).
For example, Straka has blogged that Berlusconi's Bermuda art collection was stolen a few years ago leaving "only empty walls and vitrines," according to the caretaker. The estate, it seems, lacked a proper burglar's alarm.[Click here: The Prudent Investor - Seeing Too Many Bubbles: Connecting The Dots For This Week].
But Straka has more recently emailed me commenting that the Berlusconi art theft "story only made it around the island as gossip, as so much other news on the 20-mile long island. Wonder if Bermuda police have file on this. It happened in 2001/2002."
Berlusconi's and Bloomberg's travel to and from Bermuda would also be off the radar. Neither is likely to take a commercial flight to the island of James Bond (Ian Fleming's model for 007, William Stephenson aka "Intrepid," the head of British Security Coordination during WWII, eventually made Bermuda his home and died there).
Mike Bloomberg is a licensed pilot, making the possibility of travel to Bermuda even less conspicuous.
What is clear from conversations I've had with island residents in the know is that the Bloomberg and Berlusconi daughters (Emma Beth, Georgina Leigh and Marina) are a visible presence, even if "Daddy" is not there regularly. Mike Bloomberg's $10.5 million "cottage" sits on two acres next to his daughters' property.
But what would inspire the mayor of New York and the prime minister of Italy to settle in adjacent properties in the first place? What makes them good neighbors?
They're both about the same age - mid to late 60s. And both majorly profit from conflict of interest roles as heads of government and owners of media empires.
Mike Bloomberg is the Bloomberg in Bloomberg News. Berlusconi owns three Italian television stations and his supporters control two of Italy's three public TV stations. Helpful if you're running for reelection.
Both are art lovers. Berlusconi's passion for antiquities led to his unsuccessful attempt at legitimizing looting with proposed legislation that offered a 5% commission to any "diggers" of ancient treasures in Italy who would subsequently turn over their artifacts to the state.
As mayor of New York, Bloomberg is on the board of trustees of the Metropolitan Museum, as he was as a private citizen.
Bloomberg News finally coughed up that admission in a column a couple of days after the Met-Italy antiquities agreement was signed and after prodding from me in conversations with Met Ancient Near East expert Oscar White Muscarella on these pages [Antiquities Whistleblower Oscar White Muscarella ].
The New York Times has yet to admit the Sulzberger publishing family's relationship to the Met. [The Italy-Met Euphronios Accord? ]
But what draws Bloomberg and Berlusconi into Bermuda waters? Gorgeous beaches, film and rock stars, spy novel settings are nice but it's Bermuda's offshore smell of money that attracts.
The island is currently a thriving center for the reinsurance industry (where a second insurance company agrees to indemnify the first insurer for part or all of the liability it assumed in an original insurance policy). Ousted AIG chief Maurice Greenberg has long called the island home, for instance.
Across from Berlusconi's estate in Tucker's Town is former Reform Party candidate for US President, Ross Perot's place. Other Bermuda residents of intrigue include cosmetics mogul Ron Lauder and media magnate Rupert Murdoch -- as well as Dutch oil man John Christiaan MAM Deuss.
Deuss, CEO of Trans World Oil and chairman of the Bermuda Commerical Bank, once employed CIA spymaster Ted "Blond Ghost" Shackley (after Shackley left the agency, of course), to organize oil shipments from Oman to apartheid South Africa. Coincidentally, several years before Deuss hired Shackley, I was hired as the muse at Deuss's New York fashion house, Alexandra Christie, as I fessed up in Bermuda's Mid Ocean News [ John Deuss - The Manhattan projects ].
At any rate, the homeyness of Bloomberg and Berlusconi on the beaches of Bermuda kind of makes you wonder just where Bloomberg's political career is heading after the Euphronios, that is, whether more manifestos from Tucker's Town are yet to come.
Suzan Mazur's stories on art and antiquities have been published in The Economist, Financial Times, Connoisseur, Archaeology (cover) and Newsday. Some of her other reports have appeared on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox television news programs. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org