A subdued auction in Sandton saw multimillionaires perusing a catalogue for properties, warehouses, and a Greek island.
The auction, held on Thursday at the Maslow Hotel in Sandton, attracted multimillion-rand cars that filled its small parking lot. Inside, tables of finger foods created a riot of colour in stark contrast with the mostly subdued colours of the suited audience.
Inside the bidding room, with its rows of desks and grey-and-white-striped walls, most of the prospective bidders were flipping through the catalogue of items to be auctioned. The island of Sofia was near the end.
Journalists in the back row set their equipment up and talked about the island – all wondering how much it would go for, and two whom. Strands of I've got you, babe wafted across the room, with the hardest choice so far being between a glass of juice or a cup of coffee.
As the clock hit nearly midday, the audience was led through an exercise to be warmed up for raising their hands in bids. But this faltered, an indication of the things to come.
The rest of the auction was led by Hedley 'The Hammer' Harris, a title which he did not get to live up to as very little hammering of the gravel was done.
Starting with a big warehouse, valued at R8-million, 'The Hammer' quickly ran into a wall of apathy. "Nobody interested?" And then he moved on.
In the next lot he tried to jump-start the audience into bidding by speaking as quickly as possible. Starting with a high bid, he fired off numbers, losing millions with each utterance. This did not work.
By lot five he had also lost interest, not even bothering to offer an opening price. "I don't even want to waste your time," he said. A property on Eloff Street did not even stir the bidders.
At lot 13, the Greek Island, he stopped preceedings for a little speech. "We're going onto the big one. The is the first time in South Africa we're actually auctioning off an island. You have an opportunity to make history because all South Africans will know you put your hand up and made history."
But then nothing. Starting at R35-million, the asked-for amount went down into single digits, and still nobody showed interest. As he closed the lot he said a R34-million bid had been put in before the auction. The auctioneers would not say who had won, but just that it was a South African.
Preceedings closed with a lucky draw for an iPad Mini, then everyone crowded outside for chicken drumsticks and to discuss why nobody had put in a bid in for the star attraction.