PARIS French film and stage actor Alain Delon sold a thousand bottles of his wine collection on Saturday with a big Chinese buyer pushing the auction results well above pre-sale estimates.
Delon, once called "the male Brigitte Bardot" for his good looks, is one of France's best-selling film actors with Jean-Paul Belmondo and comic Louis de Funes. While he never made a big splash in Hollywood, he has fans in Europe and Asia.
The sale raised more than 250,000 euros ($333,800), compared to an auctioneer's estimate of 100,000 euros, with Chinese media businessman Dong Guo pushing up the prices for the main parts of the sale. He acquired 70 lots and fell short of his goal of acquiring the entire collection due to other bidders in the room at Fouquet's hotel and restaurant on the Champs Elysees.
Buyers from China, Russia, United States and South America were active via Internet and phone lines and competed with the some 200 people in the stately room in the hotel, decorated with gold-colored curtains, dark wood paneling and black-and-white pictures of film stars and scenes.
Auction house Cornette de Saint Cyr, which sold wines of the cave of the Tour d'Argent restaurant in 2009, said Guo was president of the Yubang media group in Shenzhen and aimed to invite Delon to come to his city.
Delon was not present at the sale. Guo, with heavy-rimmed glasses, was sitting relaxed on a front-row seat, constantly lifting his hand with finger-signs to indicate his price increases.
Other buyers, like Paris-based wine trader Guerda Brahim, said some prices were 'crazy'. "I came here to find some bargains to put in my cellar and sell them on to my clients," he said.
The bottles had a Delon cellar-sign which made them not just interesting for wine collectors but also for people eager to own objects that had belonged to a film star like him. This was particularly evident as 'Alain Delon' labeled champagne or cognac reached prices at sometimes five times their estimate.
There were many bottles from 1935, Delon's birth year.
A 'star' lot of six bottles Cheval Blanc 1947 sold for 20,000 euros and 12-bottles of Petrus 1972 sold for 12,500 euro. There were also bottles of cognac Bisquit Dubouché 1840 and a 9-liter 'Salmanazar' of Champagne Besserat de Bellefon 1979.
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Actress Mireille Darc started putting the collection together with Delon during their 15-year relationship until 1985. Before that, Delon had already been engaged to actress Romy Schneider, his co-star in the love triangle movie "The Swimming Pool," and married to Nathalie Barthelemy.
Actor in about a hundred moves and stage plays, his biggest roles were perhaps in "Borsalino," "The Leopard," "The Samurai" or "Rocco and his brothers."
Born November 8, 1935 in Sceaux in the Paris region, he now lives in Geneva, with his two youngest children from a Dutch model he separated from in 2002.
At 76, he has survived the deaths of several contemporaries and television images showed him very distressed at a last dinner of friends with actress Anne Giradot and at her funeral service in March 2011, where he was accompanied by Darc.
A spokeswoman declined to comment why Delon was selling.
"He manages his wine collection like a share portfolio. He is selling to be able to make new acquisitions," she said. Delon also collects art and sold 40 modern works for 8 million euros in 2007.
Delon's parents divorced when he was four and he had a difficult youth and was a butcher's apprentice until he joined the French marines as part of his military service during the war in the French colonies of Indochina that resulted in independence for Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. On his return he held odd jobs in the Les Halles area of Paris - where the big food markets were - and was spotted by a talent scout for his looks. His first film was in 1957.
His daughter Anouschka (1990) is an actress while his youngest son Alain-Fabien (1994) is in Swiss private school Le Rosey. Both Delon and the mother have spoken publicly about the boy's addiction problems. He was involved in a shooting accident in July 2011 during a boozy party at Delon's villa while the father was away. Delon won guardianship of his youngest children after a bitter legal battle.