Former FTX executive buys Titanic pocket watch for $1.5 million

  • FTX’s former European director has bought the most expensive Titanic relic ever sold at auction.
  • The gold watch sold for $1.5 million and was owned by John Jacob Astor IV.
  • Gruhn bought the watch for $1.5 million and plans to display it in U.S. museums, he told the WSJ.

The buyer of a gold-plated pocket watch belonging to a wealthy Titanic passenger has been identified as former FTX executive Patrick Gruhn.

The watch sold at auction Saturday for about $1.5 million, the highest price ever fetched by a Titanic memorabilia item.

Gruhn is a German crypto law veteran who was previously the head of FTX Europe. The Wall Street Journal first reported that he was the new owner of the watch.

Gruhn told Business Insider that he wanted the watch because he felt a sense of connection with its owner, John Jacob Astor IV, the richest man aboard the ill-fated ship and one of the titans of the industry in the 1910s.

Gruhn said his family, like the Astors, had German roots and found success in America. He bought the watch as a gift for his wife. They met the same year the film premiered, he told BI, and she has long been fascinated by the Titanic.

Gruhn added that he wanted to “ensure that this important part of history remains in the United States, where it belongs.”

The Waltham watch is engraved with Astor’s initials and was found on his body when he was recovered a week after the accident, according to auction house Henry Aldridge & Son.

Astor, who died at age 47, helped his pregnant wife (who would survive) onto a lifeboat and was last seen smoking a cigarette on deck as the ship sank.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said in a statement that auction prices for pieces like the watch reflect the “enduring appeal” of the Titanic story.

“112 years later, we are still talking about the ship, the passengers and the crew,” he said.

Gruhn told BI he bought the watch with money from the sale of two IT companies he sold in 2006 and 2014.

Gruhn is currently preparing to launch a new cryptocurrency trading platform called Perpetuals and has announced plans to restart FTX Europe under a different name.

Gruhn said he has not been questioned by any law enforcement agency or regulator about the FTX implosion, which led to former executive Sam Bankman-Fried being convicted of fraud and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

“From all the facts, it was clear that FTX Europe did not and could not have known about SBF’s fraud,” he said.


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