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Christ painting by Leonardo da Vinci sells for record $450M

NEW YORK — A painting of Christ by the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci sold for a record $450 million at auction on Wednesday, obliterating previous records for artworks sold at auction or privately.

The painting, called "Salvator Mundi," Italian for "Savior of the World," is one of fewer than 20 paintings by Leonardo known to exist and the only one in private hands. It was sold by Christie's auction house, which didn't immediately identify the buyer.

The highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction had been $179.4 million, for Picasso's "Women of Algiers (Version O)" in May 2015, also at Christie's in New York. The highest known sale price for any artwork had been $300 million, for Willem de Kooning's "Interchange," sold privately in September 2015 by the David Geffen Foundation to hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin.

A backer of the "Salvator Mundi" auction had guaranteed a bid of at least $100 million, the opening bid of the auction, which ran for 19 minutes. The price hit $300 million about halfway through the bidding.

People in the auction house gallery applauded and cheered when the bidding reached $300 million and when the hammer came down on the final bid, $400 million. The record sale price of $450 million includes the buyer's premium, a fee paid by the winner to the auction house.

The 26-inch-tall Leonardo painting dates from about 1500 and shows Christ dressed in Renaissance-style robes, his right hand raised in blessing as his left hand holds a crystal sphere.

Its path from Leonardo's workshop to the auction block at Christie's was not smooth. Once owned by King Charles I of England, it disappeared from view until 1900, when it resurfaced and was acquired by a British collector. At that time it was attributed to a Leonardo disciple, rather than to the master himself.

The painting was sold again in 1958 and then acquired in 2005, badly damaged and partly painted-over, by a consortium of art dealers who paid less than $10,000. The art dealers restored the painting and documented its authenticity as a work by Leonardo.

The painting was sold Wednesday by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who bought it in 2013 for $127.5 million in a private sale that became the subject of a continuing lawsuit.

Christie's says most scholars agree that the painting is by Leonardo, though some critics have questioned the attribution and some say the extensive restoration muddies the work's authorship.

Christie's capitalized on the public's interest in Leonardo, considered one of the greatest artists of all time, with a media campaign that labeled the painting "The Last Da Vinci." The work was exhibited in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and New York before the sale.

In New York, where no museum owns a Leonardo, art lovers lined up outside Christie's Rockefeller Center headquarters on Tuesday to view "Salvator Mundi."

Svetla Nikolova, who is from Bulgaria but lives in New York, called the painting "spectacular."

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," she said. "It should be seen. It's wonderful it's in New York. I'm so lucky to be in New York at this time."

Air medical services remove helicopters from North Bend Air Station

NORTH BEND — REACH Air Medical Services plans to stop emergency helicopter transport services out of their North Bend Air Station in December.

The North Bend Air Station used to provide both emergency airplane and helicopter transportation services, but will now be offering just airplane services out of that specific air station.

This does not mean that there will be no helicopter transport services for Coos County, just that the helicopter services have been moved to Roseburg.

“We found that staff sharing between helicopter and airplane crews was so we’ve decided to set up a dedicated helicopter service for the area operating out of Roseburg,” REACH Vice President of Business Anna Blair said.

The dedicated helicopter team in Roseburg will provide 24-hour service to the surrounding area including Bay Area Hospital and the Coos County area. Prior helicopter service out of North Bend were not 24-hour services.

“The end result of this change is actually more available membership coverage, which we’re very happy about,” Blair said.

Not only does REACH act as an air ambulance service, but they also transport organs.

REACH’s emergency coverage in southern Oregon has improved quite a bit lately. This month December its sister company Cal-Ore Life Flight will be opening up a new air station out of Brookings.

“For the first time ever Curry County will have a dedicated helicopter service.” Blair said.

The new Brookings air station will feature a Bell 407 helicopter.

Bandon Dunes under fire for alleged sexual harassment

BANDON — Bandon Dunes Golf Resort has been under fire this week after news reports revealed the agency that manages the resort and the resort’s longtime former general manager were being sued by an employee for alleged sexual harassment, sexual assault, harassment, discrimination, retaliation and negligence.

KGW TV in Portland reported that Bandon resident and longtime Bandon Dunes employee Darla Hamblin was seeking damages in the amount of $501,000 from KemperSports and former general manager Hank Hickox in a case that was scheduled to be heard in Coos County Circuit Court in Coquille on Tuesday, Nov. 14.

However, the case was taken off the docket, according to court records. A court employee said the case was settled out of court and dismissed. Details of the settlement were not available.

KemperSports Director of Communications B.R. Koehnemann said in a statement on behalf of Bandon Dunes and KemperSports that the case was withdrawn by the plaintiff.

“On Friday, November 10, 2017, Ms. Hamblin acted to dismiss the lawsuit,” Koehnemann wrote. “The court was informed and the case was removed from the docket.”

The statement further iterated that when informed of the alleged inappropriate behavior at Bandon Dunes, the company took “decisive remedial action,” and that Hickox is no longer employed by KemperSports or Bandon Dunes.

“Independent outside counsel has been retained to further investigate the situation. We have been and will continue to be vigilant in dealing with any inappropriate behavior that we uncover or is reported to us,” Koehnemann wrote.

“Our staff members across the country know that, since our founding nearly 40 years ago, we have worked hard to provide a workplace environment that is rewarding, comfortable and free from discrimination and harassment.”

Hamblin initially sought $501,000 for emotional distress and damages.

Misconduct "pervasive"

Court documents show the allegations weren't limited to the golf club in Bandon. A former employee, Adrienne Fitzgerald, who worked for KemperSports for 16 years, most recently as the national director of strategic partnership, alleges misconduct has been pervasive at the corporate office.

Fitzgerald resigned from the company in April 2017.

KemperSports manages golf courses around the country. Bandon Dunes is its premiere property. Among its other responsibilities, KemperSports employs all of the employees at Bandon Dunes. 

Hamblin was employed by Bandon Dunes in 2000 as a bartender and Hickox was the general manager at the time of her hire, according to court documents. She is now director of reservation services.

“Hickox was a huge fan and ally of (Hamblin) throughout most of her employment,” a trial brief stated. “He was responsible for her regular promotions and raises, as well as nominating her for KemperSports' Hospitality Professional of the Year award in early 2015. Indeed, plaintiff concedes that she, Hickox and Hickox’s wife, Johnna, became quite close over the years, and that it was not uncommon for them to say ‘I love you’ to one another.”

Hamblin said in a court deposition that she was subjected to inappropriate comments and touching from Hickox for over a decade, though she did not file any complaints until September 2015. That complaint followed an incident in which Hickox and several other employees got together for after-work dinner and drinks off premises in July 29, 2015.

That day, Hickox became too intoxicated to drive his car home, so Hamblin and another employee drove him. As he was saying goodnight, Hickox kissed Hamblin through the open window of the car she was driving, allegedly sticking his tongue in her mouth.

Hamblin confronted Hickox about the incident two days later and, though Hickox had no recollection of the event, Hamblin said he was “contrite and apologetic.”

Delayed reporting

KemperSports management was not notified about the kiss until almost two months later, according to court documents, when Hamblin reached out to KemperSports Human Resources Director Susan Sommer-Evans on Sept. 21, 2015.

According to Hamblin, the call was prompted by a conversation she had with Hickox in which they were discussing Hickox’s upcoming Halloween party. Hickox asked her to wear a costume to the party and specifically suggested she could wear tights, dressing as Heidi from the children's book, or a Dracula maiden.

Hamblin thought about the conversation that night and the next day went back to Hickox to tell him his statements the previous day were unprofessional and that the "professional lines should not be crossed between the two of them anymore going forward."

Hickox reportedly responded that "going forward our relationship was going to change.” Hamblin took that as a threat that she could lose her job.

KemperSports Executive Vice President Gary Binder was informed of the complaint by Sommer-Evans. Binder spoke to Hamblin, who said that Hickox should be “swiftly and gracefully exited” from the company. She also asked for the matter to be kept confidential.

Binder did not approach Hickox with Hamblin’s concerns, in part due to Johnna Hickox’s second serious bout of cancer, but said he was monitoring Hickox’s behavior on his frequent visits to Bandon Dunes and did not observe anything inappropriate.

Hamblin said that Hickox began acting disrespectful and condescending toward her in meetings. She complained to Bandon Dunes Human Resources Director Alex White and to Binder that Hickox was retaliating against her and discussed her ongoing concerns about working with him.

Case investigated

An investigation ensued and Hamblin said she was satisfied with the response. A meeting was arranged for Hickox to apologize to Hamblin. Hickox entered an alcohol recovery program from June to August 2016.

During that time, Hamblin said KemperSports President Josh Lesnik told her he was “taking care of the situation,” which she interpreted to mean that Hickox would be quickly exited from the company.

Instead, KemperSports made a formal announcement that Hickox would be retiring at the end of 2017, a full 18 months away. Hamblin filed an administrative complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries in August 2016.

Following Hickox’s return, another incident allegedly occurred when he was in a meeting in September with some of his senior managers. During the meeting, he lost his temper, got close to the face of one of the female managers and yelled at her. An investigation of the incident followed and Hickox, who was already on a final written warning as a result of his conduct toward Hamblin, was “exited” from the company in November 2016.

Hamblin filed the lawsuit on Dec. 23, 2016. She applied for a leave of absence in September 2017 due to an unspecified “hostile work environment” and is not expected to return to work until late 2017.

"Boy's Club"

Hamblin said in court documents that she initially was reluctant to report Hickox’ behavior because of “Hickox’s reputation and close relationship with Kemper Sports top executives – particularly President Josh Lesnik and Executive Vice President Gary Binder.”

Hamblin’s claims were supported in the declaration by Fitzgerald, the woman who worked in Kemper’s corporate office, who made her comments voluntarily. Fitzgerald said during part of her time with the company, she worked with Hamblin.

Fitzgerald described Hamblin as a “great asset to the company,” who had a "strong work ethic, was professional and did her job well."

“Darla was even named as the company’s employee of the year, which is a huge honor considering the company has over 6,500 employees,” Fitzgerald said in her statement.

Fitzgerald said in the summer of 2016 she allegedly heard several male employees, including Binder and Lesnik, laughing and joking about a complaint that Hamblin had filed against Hickox.

“At that time, Hank Hickox was notorious in the company for being sexually inappropriate and horribly offensive,” Fitzgerald wrote. “However, they also held him in very high regard because he was very valuable to the company.”

Fitzgerald said Hickox had been offensive and inappropriate toward her, and although she would make him aware of her discomfort, he would “just laugh it off.”

“Luckily, I lived in Chicago and he lived in Oregon, so my direct exposure to him was limited only to when our paths would cross,” Fitzgerald wrote.

Fitzgerald said the comments weren’t limited to Hickox. Rather, she described a pervasive attitude among the men in the company’s upper management team.

“Until recently, all of the company’s top executives were male and collectively they are the epitome of a Boy’s Club and treat the workplace like a high school locker room … constantly talking about sex during working hours and gossiping about which females in the company were sexy …” Fitzgerald wrote.

When she overheard Lesnik and Binder talking about Hamblin’s case, they were “laughing it off” and saying that she was having an affair with Hickox and was probably “pissed about something he had done.”

"One kiss does not a lawsuit make"

Fitzgerald said she reached out to Hamblin when she heard about the lawsuit to let her know she supported and believed her. She shared her own struggles with what she called being "objectified" and told Hamblin about the executives saying she was having an affair with Hickox.

“Darla was devastated to hear the false rumors about her and Hank at the corporate office,” Fitzgerald wrote. “She became very tearful and was inconsolable.”

Fitzgerald said soon after, she and other employees attended a sexual harassment training class, after which the executive team “treated it like a joke, mocking it and making inappropriate comments.”

“Unfortunately, nothing changed at the corporate level after the sexual harassment training or Darla’s lawsuit,” Fitzgerald wrote. “The executive team continued with their inappropriate behavior so I found another job and resigned.”

In court documents, KemperSports said Hamblin’s allegations, including the kissing incident on July 29, 2015, are time-barred. Hamblin had one year from the date of the incident to either file an administrative complaint or initiate litigation and she failed to do so.

“Even if the court considers Hickox’s behavior during the July 2015 incident, though, that act (a single kiss) does not carry the day for her,” KemperSports’ trial brief states in its claim that Hamblin should not be entitled to damages.

“It is certainly unfortunate that the plaintiff was kissed against her will on July 29, 2015,” the brief stated. “No one is disputing that. However, one kiss does not a lawsuit make. Kemper did everything he reasonably could and should have done to remedy the behavior once plaintiff, belatedly, brought it to Kemper’s attention.

“Hickox, plaintiff’s one-time champion, sincerely apologized to her for his misbehavior on that evening and ultimately paid dearly: In November 2016, he lost his job with Kemper, in large part, because of his conduct toward her. Plaintiff, on the other hand, has suffered no lasting consequences to the terms and conditions of her employment.”

Lesnik said in a statement that “any allegations about me are false, and our Board of Directors has launched an investigation that will find the truth.”

Hamblin declined to comment for this story.