A Dallas Judge Halted Heritage Auctions' Sale of the 1959 Masters Green Jacket [Updated]
"Yesterday the Augusta National Golf Club filed suit against Heritage Auctions over the Art Wall's 1959 Green Master's jacket being offered in an upcoming sale in New York City. Prior to their filling the lawsuit, Augusta National did not contact Heritage Auctions, or Heritage's legal counsel regarding this jacket. Heritage's consignor, a well-known, and respected collector purchased the jacket in good faith last year for $61,000 at a public auction conducted by another company. To the best of our knowledge, Augusta National did not challenge that earlier auction prior to its sale last April. Had Augusta National contacted Heritage Auctions directly prior to the auction with proof that the current owner did not have good title, we would have removed it from the sale. The current owner disputes the current claim based on facts either omitted, or mischaracterized in Augusta National's lawsuit. The jacket has been removed from the sale. Heritage looks forward a final determination in this matter."
Update at 3:15 p.m.: Texas Lawyer reports that District Judge Emily Tobolowsky signed a temporary restraining order halting the sale and ordering a March 4 hearing on a permanent injunction.
Original post: On April 5, 1959, Art Wall, Jr. birdied five of the final six holes at Augusta National for an improbable, come-from-behind Masters win. It was the pinnacle of a career that included 14 PGA Tour wins over 22 years but only one major, and only one green jacket.
The jacket was tailored especially for Wall and embroidered with his name, in cursive. But at some point, it disappeared.
"He was always very vague, he told me he had a jacket and it just disappeared," Wall's son, Greg, told New Jersey's Star-Ledger last year. "He never said it was stolen, he never said he lost it, he never said that he gave it away. He always just said the jacket disappeared."
The jacket resurfaced last spring, when it was put up for sale by Green Jacket Auctions. Augusta's green jackets are rare -- the club stopped allowing winners to take them home after 1961 -- and it ended up selling for $61,452.55.
But this time, unlike last, Augusta National has filed a lawsuit in Dallas County attempting to stop the sale.
According to the suit, first reported by Courthouse News, Augusta National conducted an "exhaustive inquiry" and determined that Wall's green jacket, along with three others and a host of other merchandise, had been stolen by three former employees.
"Fortunately, ANI has since recovered the other three jackets," the suit says. "Unfortunately, the whereabouts of the jacket awarded to Mr. Wall remained a mystery until it appeared in defendant Heritage Auction's catalogue and on its website in advance of the auction."
Heritage, Augusta argues, should have checked with the club before putting the jacket up for sale, considering the auction house should have known green jackets aren't allowed to leave the club. That's why it's Augusta, and not Wall's family, that's suing.
Heritage representatives say they're preparing a statement. In the auction house's defense, the exact same piece of clothing was sold in a high-profile auction less than a year ago with, according to Green Jacket Auction's Bob Zafian, no objection from Augusta.