According to the Seattle Times, Christopher Larson and Julia Calhoun were able to divide most of their assets, but when it came to their art collection the couple could simply not agree. While emotionally valuable items are common in divorce, the couple’s art collection had not only emotional value, but a tremendous dollar value. The collection was appraised for over $100 million and included several masterpieces by artists like Monet and Renoir.
Christopher Larson, a retired Microsoft executive, earned his millions by getting in on the ground floor of the tech giant back in 1981. His 0.5% stake in the company proved very lucrative and once the company went public Larson’s net worth soared. Today the couple not only has an impressive art collection, but also a stake in the Seattle Mariners and a 25,000 square foot home.
The couple was able to agree on everything except what to do with the art, and after two tries the issue was handed over to the court. The couple’s 47 pieces could have been split in a traditional way, sell everything and simply split the proceeds. The problem: high taxes on art combined with auction fees would significantly devalue the collection. Even worse, the couple owns so much 19th century art that selling it all could have flooded the market and devalued the works even more.
The judge in charge of dividing the art asked for both parties to submit their wishes on paper. Julia Calhoun sent a long document detailing her emotional attachment to each piece and which ones she valued most. Larson sent a business like reply saying he needed paintings valued over $750,000 to secure a line of credit. Additionally, he said, “I have lots of wall space to cover, and so I do not want a collection consisting of very few expensive paintings.” In the end, Calhoun got 19 paintings and Larson got 24. The couple also did some trading after the settlement was reached.
While most of us certainly aren’t sitting on a mountain of Monet’s, the case does highlight two different approaches for dividing assets. The value of the art to Calhoun was an emotional one, whereas Larson focused on the financial value. These same approaches often appear in everyday cases where the monetary value is much lower. Recognizing this difference can help make the divorce process, and the division of assets, go much more smoothly.
If you find yourself facing the prospect of divorce in Charlotte, it is best to contact experienced equitable distribution lawyers in Charlotte, North Carolina who can help guide you through the often difficult process.
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