Jose Mugrabi (Yosef Mugrabi) was born to a Syrian-Jewish family in Jerusalem, Israel. He grew up in the Mahane Yehuda neighborhood. His family managed a grocery store in Nahalat Ahim. At the age of 16, he went to Colombia to stay with relatives and became involved in the textile business. Starting as an errand boy, he became one of the country's major importers. In 1982, he moved to New York, where he met art dealer Jeffrey Deitch and began collecting art.
Jose Mugrabi owns the world's largest collection of paintings by Andy Warhol. His art collection includes works by Renoir, Picasso, Rodin, Ernst, Daumier, Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, in addition to 800 Warhols.
In November 1988, at Sotheby's in New York, he set a new world record for Warhol's work when he purchased "Twenty Marilyns" for $3.96m. In May 2002 he acquired one of Duchamp's Fountain Readymades for $1 million.
Relationship with Bernard L. Madoff and the Fairfield Sentry Fund
The Fairfield Sentry fund required a $100,000 minimum investment and was billed as a way to tap Bernard L. Madoff's trading expertise using "algorithmic technology" while Fairfield with due diligence conducted "systematic investment compliance". The Mugrabis, who have lived in New York for more than 20 years and were long time friends of Piedrahita (a Colombian who had married Mr. Noel’s eldest daughter, Corina), were investors.
The fund had more than $7 billion invested with Madoff, and became one of his largest victims. It was Fairfield's signature fund, one of several feeder funds through which money from wealthy foreign investors could capitalize on Mr. Madoff’s supposed investment acumen. Its marketing prospectus promised low volatility and steady returns, and boasted 11 percent annual return over the last 15 years, with only 13 losing months, a record that grew increasingly desirable over recent years of volatility. The fund was backed by loans from banks including Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria and Nomura Holdings, which invested about $304 million.
"We had very little money with the fund — just under a million dollars — so I am not that upset personally," said Alberto Mugrabi, a son of the family patriarch. "It was a very informal thing. We know Andrés (Piedrahita) since forever, from Bogotá, he’s a great guy, and he says to us, ‘This is the Madoff thing, he’s the master.’ I trusted Andrés. I still trust him."
- Warholic, Haaretz, May 15, 2009
- Jose Mugrabi has a lot of toys
- The man with the 800 Warhols
- Sunday Times; Scores of Warhols to be sold off in giant private art deal; 13 May 2007
- Sunday Mail Bizarre stories from around the world 26 May 2002