Sotheby’s to auction Hilbert art, antiques

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Less than six months after settling a bitter lawsuit with Conseco Inc., Stephen and Tomisue Hilbert will auction off more than 100 pieces of art and antiques beginning this week at Sotheby’s in New York.

The auctioneer values the Hilbert collection between $7 million and $11 million, according to a catalogue from the show.

The pieces include a pair of 18th Century gilt wood armchairs possibly designed for an English Duke and an ornate chest thought to be purchased by an 18th Century ambassador in Paris.

Sotheby’s values the chest as high as $1 million. It pegs one of the Hilberts’ paintings, a piece by Francois de Troy, at more than $1 million.

“In their assemblage of furniture and decorative arts, Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Hilbert followed in some illustrious footsteps,” wrote Alistair Clarke, Sotheby’s head of Continental and English furniture, in an online preview of the auction.

The Hilberts’ furniture and dishes will be sold Thursday. Their paintings will be sold separately June 8.

It is not clear why the Hilberts are selling off the collection now. But in December, they agreed to a confidential settlement with Conseco, the Carmel-based insurer Stephen Hilbert co-founded.

Conseco claimed Hilbert owed it as much as $300 million in principal and interest on loans he borrowed to buy Conseco stock in the late-1990s.

As part of the settlement, Conseco took control of and is trying to sell parcels of land in Hamilton County, as well as the Hilberts’ sprawling mansion in Carmel. The home is listed for sale for $20 million.

Stephen Hilbert could not be reached immediately for comment. An attorney for Conseco declined to comment.

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