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Sotheby's selling seemingly stolen sign from Armadillo World Headquarters

Armadillo World Headquarters opened in 1970 at 505 Barton Springs Road. (Armadillo World Headquarters)

The sign of the formerly beloved Armadillo World Headquarters is going once, going twice, for a hefty $35,000 starting bid through world-renowned auction house Sotheby’s.

However, some fans, former employees and performers of the music hall told the Austin Chronicle the sign was stolen.

The piece: Reading “Armadillo World Headquarters Concert Hall,” the 16-feet long wooden sign was created by former AWH staff member Don Cowley in the late ‘70s. The sign once hung over the club’s entrance and is estimated to be worth $50,000-$70,000.

The sign was modelled after Camel cigarette lettering. (Sotheby's)

The provenance: According to Austin Museum of Popular Culture executive director and former AWH staff member Leea Mechling, the sign was stolen shortly before the ‘Dillo closed in 1980. Menchling lost track of the sign until 2011, when a man contacted AusPop asking if they would buy the sign for $100,000 and was listed on eBay for the same price. Menchling said they declined to purchase the sign, suggesting he donate it. The piece resurfaced on Friday afternoon on Sotheby’s, one of the world’s oldest and largest fine art brokers.

Per the Austin American-Statesman, the sign is currently owned by San Antonian Michele Krier, who said it was purchased at auction from then-AWH founder Eddie Wilson and given to her by her ex-husband on her birthday in 1984.

Wilson, who left the business before its closure, said he also believes the sign was stolen. However, Wilson has held many auctions selling Armadillo art in the last decade.

Armadillo fans are getting public with their frustration over the auction, like The Nobelity Project co-founder and former AWH magician Turk Pipkin, who called out the auction house on Twitter yesterday.

Sotheby's policy on stolen art: “As part of Sotheby’s efforts to support only the legitimate art market and to combat the illegitimate market in stolen property, Sotheby’s has retained the Art Loss Register to check all uniquely identifiable items offered for sale in this catalog that are estimated at more than the equivalent of U.S. $1,500 against the Art Loss Register’s computerized database of objects reported as stolen or lost.”

Menchling said she thinks the sign is an “important relic” to Austinites who are old enough to remember rocking out at the ‘Dillo, though she still has the original logo sign, which she thinks is more important.

So far, the highest bid is at $40,000. The auction ends on Jan. 25 at 2:56 p.m.


With deposition and trial looming, Elon Musk has offered $44B for Twitter, again

Elon Musk has proposed once again to buy Twitter for $54.20 a share.

The news that Musk is offering to carry on with the $44 billion buyout was first reported by Bloomberg. Now, a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows Musk made the proposal in a letter to the tech giant on Monday.

The New York Stock Exchange temporarily halted trading in Twitter stock twice Tuesday, first because of a big price move and the second time for a news event, presumably the announcement of Musk's renewed offer.

While the per share offer price on this latest proposal remains the same as the original offer, it’s unclear if Musk has made other term changes or if Twitter would reject it. According to other reports, a deal could be reached this week.

The stock closed at $52.00/share Tuesday, indicating market uncertainty around the $54.20 offer.

After Musk informed Twitter of plans to terminate the original agreement in July, Twitter sued. A trial has been expected in Delaware Chancery Court on Oct. 17.

With the proposition of a buyout on the table again, it revives the question of whether Musk might move Twitter from San Francisco to Central Texas.

He’s done so with some of his other companies. Tesla’s headquarters in southeast Travis County had its grand opening earlier this year and tunneling business The Boring Company moved to Pflugerville. At least two other Musk companies, SpaceX and Neuralink, have a Central Texas presence without being headquartered here.

Technology journalist Nilay Patel this afternoon voiced concerns that owning Twitter and Tesla together could be problematic for Musk, as his Tesla manufacturing facilities in Germany and China are both in countries that have disputes with Twitter over content moderation and censorship.

Telsa shares fell after the Twitter news became public, before rallying to close up, at $249.44.

Austin rents nearly double in a year and are now in the top 5 nationwide

While searching for a place to live, Austin renters will face monthly rates of nearly $3,000, a recent guide from rental marketplace Dwellsy shows.

The median rent in August this year was $2,930, a more than 86% increase since August 2021. That’s $820 more than the nationwide median asking rent in August and puts Austin just below the Bay Area, Boston and New York for large cities with the most expensive asking rent.

“Within this group, Austin, TX stands out for the highest increases in asking rent, which has nearly doubled since this time last year,” the study notes.

Outside of those large cities, however, others are seeing even higher rent spikes. Metro areas that ranked above Austin in one-year increases include those like Kansas City, MO with a 112% change in rent since last August and Tucson, AZ with a 124% change.

The data reflects large apartment communities, single-family homes and 2-6 unit buildings.