Auction of Disgrace

Let’s face it: The sales revenue of the Pride of Poland auction was not such a bad one. The horses had high reserve prices attached to them, so they were not sold off cheaply. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the reputation of the auction, build over the last 48 years (!), has been ruined because of fake bidding.

For 48 years, the Polish Arabian horse auctions have built a reputation that has guaranteed good sales revenues, even when the markets were bad. And of course, nobody expected this year such a spectacular result as last year. However, although the total sales revenue of 1.271 Million Euro is the second lowest of the last 10 years, the average price per horse of 79,437 € brings it to a place in the middle and all in all, 16 of 31 horses offered at the Pride of Poland were sold. At the Summer Sale, the results were even better, as it holds the best result in the whole Summer Sale history as far as the average price per horse sold is concerned. The total sales revenue of 409,000 € is the second best result, following the record result of 2015; 18 horses out of 25 were sold.

“Something did not feel right”

So far, so good, if there were not the cases of Emira and Al Jazeera, two stars of the auction. The 16-year-old Emira by Laheeb was “Lot 0”. She was somewhat pulled out of the hat, instead of Wiecza Mocy, who was feared by many would be up for sale to increase the auction result.
Anette Mattsson, who was asked to bid for Emira in the name of Al Thumama Stud / Qatar, recalled the events in an interview with Arabian Horse World: “We were bidding [for Emira] – and then something happened. I have been to these auctions since 1989 and I have been bidding for people quite a lot, so I kind of know how auctions work. And I felt it was going too fast. And it didn’t feel right. So I told them [Al Thumama Stud] that we should just quit bidding, which we did. The bids continued, and ended up with 550.000 €. And then I was sitting there and the bids taker approached me some horses later and asked me how much we were willing to give for Emira. I said: “Well, she is already sold”, and he said: “Well, what’s your price?” After that, we had some discussions and it ended up that we actually got to buy her, because they said “Okay, what are you willing to give?” When I was about to sign the contract, they decided that they had to bring her back to the auction again. I told them, what I thought about it, and I am probably not popular with them anymore. And we ended up buying her.” Emira was finally sold during this second go for 225.000 €. The question remains – what happened during the first round?

No Bidder was identified

To find an answer to this question, the Polish equestrian journalist Marek Szewczyk asked all four bid takers, each one responsible for one of four sections in the auction hall, if they remember who placed the bid for 500.000 € and 550.000 €. None of them had a bid in his sector. So, how did the auctioneer, Greg Knowles get the bid? In an interview with Arabian Horse World, he explained that Michał Romanowski was a “go-between”, who represented the ANR, and he – as auctioneer – was not to sell anything, until Romanowski gave permission to do so. Knowles further recalls the moment, when Emira was about to be sold: “Michał said ‘550, sell her, sell her now!’ So I assumed he saw the bid. I looked at him and said, ‘she is reserved at 700,000, what do you want me to do?’ He said: ‘Sell her, sell her now!’ Boom! 550.” Later, Romanowski stated that they couldn’t find the buyer and Emira had to be auctioned a second time.
With Al Jazeera, Lot 5, the situation was similar. As could be seen from the live video, bidder # 44 placed the final bid of 350.000 €, but later the bidder apparently could not be identified. At the end, the auctioneer announced that due to misunderstanding Al Jazeera left the ring unsold. When Al Jazeera came back for the second time, the bids reached 170 000€ and the mare remained unsold.

The Reputation has suffered greatly

The opposition party PO (Platforma Obywatelska) [“Civic Platform”, liberal-conservative political party in Poland, major coalition partner in Poland’s government 2007-2015] filed a notification to the prosecutor concerning the incidents at the auction in Janow Podlaski. They feel, that recent events make it necessary to thoroughly look into what has really happened, and to find out who were the real bidders.
When two of the stars were “sold” at high prices and then no bidder could be identified, many of those present suspected that fake bidding had taken place to increase the prices. But one of the key “ingredients” for any auction is trust. Trust of the buyer in the product and the integrity of the seller. The quality of horses is still there, no problem, but the integrity of the seller has suffered greatly in the course of one evening.