$3.5M Stag's Head Among Stolen Antiquities Hedge Fund Manager Must Return, Prosecutor Says

Billionaire Michael Steinhardt agreed to turn over $70 million worth of antiquities illegally smuggled out of 11 countries in order to avoid criminal charges.

New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. made a statement Monday saying the hedge fund manager and Birthright Israel co-founder had "no geographic or moral boundaries" when acquiring the stolen antiquities originating from countries such as Egypt, Greece and Israel.

One of the items Steinhardt returned is a stag's head that was once used as a ceremonial vessel to pour out drinks as an offering to a deity. It dates to 400 B.C. According to Vance, it is valued at $3.5 million.

In an Associated Press report, prosecutors said many of Steinhardt's antiquities were taken from their countries during "times of war or civil unrest." They implied the stag head had been looted from Milas, Turkey.

However, Steinhardt's attorneys Andrew Levander and Theodore Wells Jr. insisted the dealers who sold the antiquities to Steinhardt "made specific representations as to the dealers' lawful title to the items, and to their alleged provenance."

In a statement released by Steinhardt's attorneys, Steinhardt said he was "pleased" there will be no charges and "that items wrongfully taken by others will be returned to their native countries."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Michael Steinhardt
Billionaire hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt will have to turn over $70 million of stolen antiquities he has acquired over the years. Above, Steinhardt attends the 4th Annual Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala on May 5, 2016, in New York City. Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage

"For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts without concern for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the pieces he bought and sold, or the grievous cultural damage he wrought across the globe," Vance said in a news release. "His pursuit of 'new' additions to showcase and sell knew no geographic or moral boundaries, as reflected in the sprawling underworld of antiquities traffickers, crime bosses, money launderers, and tomb raiders he relied upon to expand his collection."

According to prosecutors, while complaining about a subpoena requesting documentation for an antiquity in May 2017, Steinhardt pointed to an small chest from Greece and said to an investigator, "You see this piece? There's no provenance for it. If I see a piece and I like it, then I buy it."

Steinhardt, who turns 81 on Tuesday, founded the hedge fund Steinhardt Partners in 1967 and closed it in 1995. He came out of retirement in 2004 to head Wisdom Tree Investments.

New York University named its Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development after Steinhardt in recognition of two $10 million donations.

Manhattan prosecutors began investigating Steinhardt's collection of ancient artifacts in 2017 and raided his office and his Manhattan home in 2018, seizing several artworks that investigators said had been looted.

There was also the chest for human remains from the Greek island of Crete, called a larnax and dating from around 1300 B.C., which prosecutors said was purchased from a known antiquities trafficker.