Trouble in the Clubhouse
Heritage Auctions lands in legal sand trap over green Masters jacket
Collecting sports memorabilia seems like an innocent enough hobby. But a Dallas lawsuit filed recently says otherwise.
At a 2012 auction, Stephen Pyles paid $61,000 for a green Masters jacket that previously belonged to 1959 Masters Tournament winner Art Wall Jr. But when Pyles (not to be confused with celebri-chef Stephan Pyles) tried to flip the sale in 2013 with Dallas-based Heritage Vintage Sports Auctions, Augusta National swooped in with allegations of theft and fraud.
Augusta National maintains it has evidence that Art Wall Jr.'s jacket was one of four stolen by employees.
On February 18, District Judge Emily Tobolowsky awarded Augusta a temporary restraining order that halted the sale, which would have taken closed on February 23 in New York City. But a recent filing for Heritage and Pyles raises questions as to whether the jacket was ever stolen at all.
Augusta National maintains it has evidence that Wall's jacket was one of four stolen by employees and that it should be returned to its rightful place in Augusta, Georgia. In a 2012 interview with the Newark Star Ledger, Wall's family said the jacket was not stolen but misplaced.
Attorney Mark Senter, who represents Heritage and Pyles, wants to know why this jacket in particular is being sought out. "There are many green jackets, of both tournament winners and members, many of which have not remained on [Augusta National's] premises, and many of which have in fact been auctioned with no opposition or action whatsoever," the February 27 filing reads.
Green jackets awarded to Doug Ford and Bobby Jones have been auctioned without issue, Senter wrote, while those belonging to Jack Nicklaus and Cliff Roberts are hanging in the golf Hall of Fame.
In its lawsuit, Augusta National says it "retains ownership and possession of each green jacket it awards to its Masters champion." Augusta says it did not realize that Wall's jacket had been stolen until 2012, when it appeared on Greenjacketauctions.com and was purchased by Pyles.
In addition to having the restraining order lifted, Pyles is seeking attorney's fees and damages. On February 18, the highest bid submitted for the green jacket in question was around $65,000. Pyles believes it could have drawn upward of $90,000 if the auction had been allowed to run its course.