Muhammad Ali boxing gloves, photos and fight robes, as well as a life-size statue of the former heavyweight champion, will be sold to raise money for victims of their owner, convicted swindler Thomas Petters.
Douglas Kelley, a court-appointed receiver, today won a U.S. judge’s approval to sell to a single collector more than two dozen Ali-related items gathered by Petters before he was found guilty of running a $3.5 billion fraud in December 2009.
“We’ve been trying to market the Ali memorabilia since 2008,” Steve Wolter, Kelley’s law partner, told U.S. District Judge Ann D. Montgomery at a hearing in Minneapolis. The judge approved a sale price of $31,000.
Petters, 53, ran a Minnetonka, Minnesota-based business that bought Sun Country Airlines Inc. and Polaroid Corp. In 2008, federal prosecutors accused him of using Petters Co. to lure investors into fake deals to buy shipments of consumer goods, and then using the money to support a lavish lifestyle.
He was found guilty by a federal jury in St. Paul, Minnesota, of all 20 counts against him, including money laundering and conspiracy. He’s now serving a 50-year term in the medium-security U.S. prison at Leavenworth, Kansas. Petters was ordered to pay his victims almost $3.5 billion in restitution, Wolter said in a telephone interview, citing records in the criminal case.
Ali won 56 of 61 professional boxing matches, 37 by knockout, during a 21-year career that saw him crowned heavy- weight champion of the world three times, according to ESPN.com. He retired in 1981.
Among the items being sold are signed photos of Ali with the Beatles, Ali standing over boxer Sonny Liston, whom he defeated to win his first world championship in 1964, a Leroy Neiman portrait and an 18-inch action figure.
Kelley, in papers filed with the court, said the top 20 items in the collection appraised for $29,000 to $50,800. The most valuable piece was a robe Ali wore to his 1976 title defense against Jimmy Young in Landover, Maryland, appraised at as much as $20,000.
The best offer for Petters’ Ali collection came from purchaser Troy Kinunen, a New Berlin, Wisconsin, sports memorabilia collector and authenticator. Wolter’s request for approval of the sale was unopposed.
“I’m glad that I’m able to get this stuff and separate Ali’s name from the mess it seems this guy created,” Kinunen said in a telephone interview today. He said he didn’t have much knowledge of the case.
“I’m just an Ali collector,” he said. Kinunen, 41, said he has been a fan of the fighter since age 11 and is now a principal of Memorabilia Evaluation and Research Services, which buys, sells and authenticates collectibles.
He called the Ali/Young robe his favorite item in the lot, saying it’s valuable because it was worn at a fight.
“It’s a very nice piece,” Kinunen said.
The case is U.S. v. Petters, 08cv5348, U.S. District Court for Minnesota (Minneapolis).
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