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Hilbert auction at Sotheby's yields $8.8M

May 24, 2007

Steve and Tomisue Hilbert's furniture and housewares fetched $8.8 million Thursday in a Sotheby's auction in New York.

The total exceeded the estimated value of the Hilbert collection, which Sotheby's estimated at $5 million to $7.7 million.

The Hilberts are also scheduled to sell eight paintings on June 8, which could be worth more than $3 million.

The most expensive item sold Thursday was an ornate, 18th Century chest, thought to be first purchased by an ambassador in Paris. It went for $740,000, according to auction results posted on Sotheby's Web site. A set of decorative sideboard dishes fetched $644,800, Sotheby's reported.

Sotheby's will deduct undisclosed fees from the sales total.

The auction comes less than six months after the Hilberts settled a bitter, three-year-old legal battle with Conseco Inc., the Carmel-based insurer that Steve Hilbert co-founded. Conseco claimed that Hilbert owed it as much as $300 million in unpaid loans and interest borrowed to buy Conseco stock in the late-1990s.

Terms of the court settlement were confidential. It is known, however, that the Hilberts ceded real estate in Hamilton County to Conseco, which is trying to sell it. Conseco has been trying to sell Hilbert's former mansion in Carmel for nearly two years. It is listed at $20 million.

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