Climb the family tree of any hedge fund manager and chances are you’ll find an old-school dealer—the classic capitalist who risks his own money to buy goods or commodities for his own account to sell later on, arbitraging across space, expertise, and the willingness to look where others don’t.
Dealers still exist, of course, and those who buy and sell for the highest stakes deal in art. Contemporary art dealers draw most of the headlines, but every once in awhile someone operating in a quieter niche will make a splash.
And no one made a bigger one than Robert Simon, a Columbia PhD who specializes in Renaissance Old Masters. At the 2019 Forum, he will recount his role as the intellectual partner of a consortium that took an underappreciated painting that had once sold at auction for just $60 and—through a combination of patience, tolerance for risk, painstaking expertise down to the fingernail, and the skillful management of a long-term call option—shepherded Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi to world fame, and its current status as the most expensive painting ever sold.