Former FTX exec pays $1.5M for watch worn by Titanic’s richest passenger

A former FTX executive who was head of the exchange’s European operation when it collapsed in 2022 has reportedly purchased a gold pocket watch worn by property tycoon John Jacob Astor IV when he was killed in the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, former head of FTX Europe Patrick Gruhn paid £1.175 million (roughly $1.5 million) for the watch at the Henry Aldridge & Son auction. This is the highest price ever paid for a piece of Titanic memorabilia.

Astor, who was the richest passenger aboard the doomed liner with an estimated fortune of around $90 million — equivalent to several billion dollars today — was apparently last seen smoking a cigarette and chatting to his fellow passengers as the ship sank after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic.

His body, along with the 14-carat gold Waltham pocket watch, was recovered a week later.

Astor’s gold watch engraved with his initials pictured on Henry Aldridge and Son’s website.

After outbidding his competition, Gruhn said, “We want people in the US to be able to see and admire this historic relic,” and plans to display the watch in a museum

The museum might be a better place for the watch than the secondary market with the Financial Times reporting that luxury watchmakers are struggling with a slump in profits this year. Market prices reportedly peaked in May 2022 and have fallen across the seven quarters since. 

FTX overspent $323 million buying Patrick Gruhn’s firm

FTX sued Gruhn and the founders of the Swiss firm Digital Assets DA AG in 2023. The lawsuit claimed that Sam Bankman-Fried’s $323 million acquisition of the firm was a ‘massive overpayment‘ that used FTX customer funds.

Read more: FTX owes more in legal fees than it does to creditors

FTX attempted to sell the firm back to its founders for the full amount but eventually settled with Gruhn and the other founders on a price of just $33 million for the firm. 

Gruhn claims he’s used funds from the sale of his companies to buy the watch and denies knowing anything about Bankman-Fried’s fraud before its collapse.

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