Almost five months after a U.S. District Court jury in New York found him guilty of price fixing, University alumni and philanthropist A. Alfred Taubman received his sentencing Monday from U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels. The 78-year-old former chair of Sotheby’s artwork auction house in New York and the namesake of the University’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning must spend a year in prison and pay a $7.5 million fine for his crimes.
A jury convicted Taubman for conspiring to inflate prices and commissions with rival auction house Christie’s International. Together, Christie’s and Sotheby’s control 90 percent of the world’s art auctions.
Prosecutors believe the scheme made Taubman and Christie’s Chairman Anthony Tennant $400 million in commissions over six years. Tennant cannot be convicted unless he voluntarily travels from his home in Andover, England to the United States to face charges.
Though Taubman is expected to appeal his conviction by next Wednesday, the sentencing signifies the end of his skyrocketing and then plummeting career. Taubman, the retired chairman of Taubman Centers, Inc. and a shopping mall mogul responsible for Briarwood Mall, was raised in Pontiac. Despite his struggle with dyslexia, he still managed to become the 340th-richest American with an estimated net worth of $770 million, according to Forbes Magazine.
Taubman became one of the most substantial University supporters after donating more than $35 million to various campus projects and buildings, including the Taubman Medical Library and the Taubman Health Center clinics at University Hospitals.
He has also contributed sizeable amounts of money to both Harvard and Brown universities, both of which have colleges or programs that bear Taubman’s name.
Despite those contributions, higher education officials and spokespersons at all three schools have chosen to remain silent about their feelings toward the sentencing.
Taubman was eligible to receive up to three years in prison for his crimes. But Daniels said failing health, old age and his past philanthropy kept Taubman from receiving the maximum penalty.
Defense attorneys depicted Taubman as a poor businessman who had little to do with the actual decisions made at Sotheby’s and argued that a jail term of any length would effectively become a death sentence. But Daniels said his decision was justified by Taubman’s lack of remorse.
“Regardless of what height we may attain in life, no one is above the law,” Daniels said at the sentencing. “Price-fixing is a crime.”
His lawyers said Taubman has a life expectancy of only another 3.8 years due to a series of strokes, multiple heart surgeries and diabetes.
It has still not been decided what prison Taubman will be forced to enter Aug. 1.
Taubman served as chair of Sotheby’s from 1983 until 2000, during a time of considerable growth and possibility for the company, according to the Sotheby’s website.
“Anything seemed possible in the late 1980s,” states the website. “In 1989, for example, the firm sold Impressionist and Modern art totaling a staggering $1.1 billion in New York and London. Indeed, by the end of the decade, prices had risen to such levels that auctions attracted global media attention on an unprecedented scale.”
– The Associated Press contributed to this report