Some of the richest people in the world lost everything when the Titanic sank. Now a consortium of new-money risk takers is poised to profit from turn-of-the-20th-century artifacts that curators had hoped to claim.
Three hedge funds banded together to submit a $19.5 million bid to buy the once-lost treasures of the ocean liner, thwarting a group of British museums backed by the National Geographic Society and James Cameron, who directed the 1997 movie “Titanic.” The museums could muster only $19.2 million and withdrew this month.
The Titanic’s bounty has been on the block since June 2016, when Premier Exhibitions, a promoter from Atlanta, went into bankruptcy and sought to sell off its tourist attractions, including the Titanic trove.
The new owners — Apollo Global Management, Alta Fundamental Advisers and PacBridge Capital Partners — said they would keep the collection intact as a tourist draw, but declined to comment further.
Theirs is an evocative, sobering and mesmerizing haul.
The objects are “time capsules that take you back to 1912,” said Kevin Fewster, director of Royal Museums Greenwich, which was part of the museum bid. “It’s this complete section of humanity and society.”
A door to first class
First-class passengers boarded through a steel door, which was recovered in 1998. Once past its threshold, passengers would ride elevators to higher floors, where they could wave farewell to people on the pier below.
“First-class passengers had their own way in,” said Eric Kentley, the author of “Discover the Titanic,” who took part in a 1994 expedition to the wreck. “Class is a big part of the Titanic story.”
Historical pieces like this door have helped tell the story of the Titanic, a tragedy that has captivated archaeologists, historians, engineers, maritime experts and many others for more than a century.
Young lives lost
Only 60 of the 113 children aboard the Titanic survived, and ceramic marbles are the smallest objects recovered from the wreck. Most of the children who died were in third class.
People in third class, who were segregated because they had to be screened by immigration officials when they arrived in the United States, had limited access to other parts of the ship. That meant they had to find their way around an unfamiliar layout to get to lifeboats.
The grand staircase
Bronze cherubs adorned the staircases of the upper landings, where first-class passengers liked to meet. The cherub that is part of this collection is smaller than the ones on the main staircase, so it probably came from a staircase at the back.
The most notable was the grand staircase, where passengers met before a visit to the Turkish baths or after dinner. It spanned six decks and was topped by a dome of iron and glass.
A chance to take in the air
Benches were placed on open deck spaces and show the kind of Gilded Age opulence that could be seen on board.