NEW YORK – Art collector and Greek shipping magnate Nicholas Zoullas “disinherited two of his sons — one of whom has accused him of stealing a $4 million Monet, court records show,” the New York Post reported on April 16.
According to his obituary, published on January 2, 2022 in the New York Times, Zoullas, 84, “a globe-trotting man-about-town of the Upper East Side and Southampton, who was worth untold millions and bounced between New York and Switzerland — died Christmas week 2021,”the Post reported, adding that “he left behind five kids from two marriages.”
Zoullas “ran his family shipping business, Norland Shipping & Trading Corp., and served on various committees and boards at Harvard, he and his sons’ alma mater, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” the Post reported, noting that “he left everything to his second wife, Susan Bates, according to his will filed in March in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court,” and “the will does not provide for his first wife, Marianna Zoullas.”
“After careful consideration and deliberation, I have decided to give nothing to my sons, Alexis Zoullas and Sophocles Zoullas,” according to Zoullas’ will, signed in 2018, the Post reported, adding that “the pair were Zoullas’ sons from his first marriage.”
According to the will, Zoullas’ three children with Bates are “to be provided for by her,” the Post reported.
“The two sides of the family published dueling obituaries in January — with one leaving out all mention of Bates and her children with Zoullas, but Zoullas — whose wealth included real estate, art, private companies, and securities – and Sophocles fell out in the early 2000s, when the son left Norland, later striking out on his own, Sophocles said in a 2017 deposition,” the Post reported, noting that “Nicholas was ‘upset’ after Sophocles left, Alexis said in a 2017 affidavit.”
“The brothers — who later founded Eagle Bulk Shipping Inc., now an $800 million firm — had a ‘fractured’ or ‘difficult’ relationship with their father, according to court papers,” the Post reported, adding that “they approached him at Alexis’ 2007 wedding with concerns about their art, which was then in a family storage facility in Switzerland.”
“He replied that ‘he felt it was not necessary to take any action since we were family and he assured me that there would not be any disputes which would jeopardize our artwork,’ according to court papers,” the Post reported, pointing out that “Zoullas allegedly transferred the Monet to Naxos Art Inc., a cash-strapped British Virgin Islands company of his for $900,000” and “Naxos soon flipped it through Christie’s for $3.9 million, according to court papers.”
The painting, titled Sainte-Adresse, “is now in the collection of the National Gallery of Art” in Washington, DC, the Post reported, noting that “Sophocles alleged in state court that his grandfather, Sophocles N. Zoullas of Lausanne, Switzerland, bought the painting for him as a gift in 1995.”
“Dare I say I was his favorite grandson,” Sophocles said in the deposition, the Post reported.
“Alexis also alleged his father absconded with less-valuable works held in storage,” the Post reported, adding that “both cases were settled.”
The 2017 deposition is available online: https://bit.ly/3uN3Dz1.
“Zoullas lived with Bates in a $4.3 million penthouse at the white-glove Knickerbocker on East 72nd St, records show,” the Post reported, noting that “the family also owns four properties in Southampton through various LLCs with a total market value at $24.6 million.”
“The flap over the Monet wasn’t the last time Zoullas tangled in court over art,” the Post reported, adding that “in 2016 he accused a mistress of stealing with his $15 million ‘erotic art’ collection, which he stored along with her near Palm Beach, according to W Magazine.”
“The family descends from Panagiotis Pantaleon, a legendary 19th century Greek shipowner,” the Post reported.
In a joint statement, Sophocles and Alexis Zoullas told the Post: “We are mourning the loss of our father who lived an amazing and complicated life. While we respected and loved him, we do not agree with many of his choices, particularly those he made later in his life, when he was unfortunately in a state of decline.”
“The attorney handling the Zoullas estate did not return messages,” the Post reported, noting that Bates also did not respond to a request for comment.