The Scream Is Now a Private Equity Plaything

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Photo: WikiImages

Private equity titans have a way of getting a lot for a little.

So it's somewhat surprising that the guy who paid an obscene $120 million for Edvard Munch's The Scream, a 36-inch-by-28.9-inch piece of cardboard with some tempera paint on it, is none other than Apollo Global Management founder Leon Black. According to The Wall Street Journal, which unmasked the buyer after months of speculation, Black purchased the painting at auction last May to go with his collection of van Goghs and Picassos.

You might remember Black as the private equity billionaire whose 60th birthday party — a Hamptons bash that included an Elton John concert and a "seared foie gras station" — was featured in the Times last year.

Black is on the boards of both the MoMA and the Met, making the question of where Munch's masterpiece will end up a particularly tricky one. Black, who is no dilettante when it comes to his art, is doubtless pulling his hair out trying to decide which institution will be the beneficiary of his largesse. (For the record, "Which of the two major art museums I sit on the board of do I give this $120 million work of art to?" is the biggest first-world dilemma ever.)

Meanwhile, while the museums are haggling over the painting, Black will continue to eat foie gras, throw parties in the Hamptons, and pay a very, very low tax rate. Though with $120 million gone, he might have to downgrade to Cyndi Lauper for his 65th.