Keno Brothers, ‘Antiques Roadshow’ Stars, Face Debt and Legal Challenge
For decades the Keno brothers — telegenic twins and widely acknowledged experts on Americana and vintage automobiles — have been perhaps the country’s highest-profile antique dealers.
Leslie Keno was once a director of American furniture and decorative arts at Sotheby’s. Leigh Keno was a highly regarded specialist at Christie’s.
They now have their own furniture brand, lecture regularly and have appeared as celebrity appraisers on all 20 seasons of “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS.
“Our audience fell in love with them and made them stars,” said Marsha Bemko, that show’s executive producer.
But their behavior in recent months has been oddly out of sync with their stature as antique world luminaries. A buying spree this spring left them with nearly $600,000 in debt and spurred legal action from two auction houses.
More bizarrely, in several instances during one auction, the brothers, who are partners in at least one business, bid against each other. Their competing efforts sent the price of routine items soaring, according to court papers.
At that auction in April, for example, by New Orleans Auction Galleries, the Kenos bid against each other about 50 times for a Turkish Angora carpet, according to court papers filed by the auction house. One brother bid by phone, the other online. After a few opening bids, no one else competed for the rug. The item, with a low estimate of $800, ended up being bought by Leslie for $14,500.
Then he did not pay for it.
The auction house says the brothers bid against each other, with similar results, at least two other times. Leigh successfully bid $7,250 for an Italian painting, which had a low estimate of $400, and $1,600 for a Louis XVI-style bed, which had a low estimate of $300, each time beating out his brother, the court papers said.
The suit accuses them of “auction misconduct, which resulted in unjustifiably higher purchase prices of auction items.”
All told, the brothers bought 244 items at the April auction, and then did not pay the $400,000 bill. They were also sued by Kamelot Auctions in Philadelphia, where they bought 89 items in May but did not pay the bill of nearly $200,000, according to the company’s lawyer, Anthony Gallia.
Leslie told the New Orleans auction house in an email that the dual bidding was just a silly mix-up between two brothers who, in their excitement, became confused.
“This was a situation where my brother thought I was bidding on the lot, and I thought HE was bidding on it,” Leslie said in an email to the auction house in May. “We made a mistake, and I would hope that given the amount of property we purchased, you would forgive us for this mistake.”
The auction house recorded Leslie during the sale saying that he and his brother were buying auction items “together,” according to its court papers.
Shawn C. Reed, a lawyer for the New Orleans auction house, says the dual bidding is mystifying.
“In hindsight, we cannot explain why they were bidding against each other,” she said.
The brothers, who never took possession of the items they bid on, said they were too busy to be interviewed by The New York Times. In a joint email statement they did not directly address why they had been willing to pay escalated prices on some items except to say, “As specialists in our business, we seek ‘hidden treasures,’ and as researchers, we search for unique provenance of every object.”
As for the nonpayments, the brothers blamed cash flow.
“It was a temporary issue of liquidity, unprecedented for them but hardly unheard-of in the auction business,” said their lawyer, Brad E. Harrigan.
Recently the brothers paid off a portion — $70,000 — of the New Orleans bill, and will pay the remainder soon, Mr. Harrigan said. Late last week they settled the Philadelphia case, according to Mr. Gallia, the lawyer for Kamelot.
Still, these are not the kind of mishaps that antique experts have come to expect from two auction veterans who each received the National Humanities Medal from President George W. Bush in 2005. (In 2008, they accompanied the first lady, Laura Bush, on a televised tour of the White House.)
The Kenos grew up in the Mohawk Valley countryside in upstate New York, the sons of antique enthusiast parents, and were doing business on their own by age 12.
Leslie is a graduate of Williams College, and served nearly 26 years at Sotheby’s. Leigh holds a degree in art history from Hamilton College.
The brothers, 59, are partners in an art advisory business, according to court papers, as well as their furniture brand. Leigh also has a Manhattan auction business. Jointly they wrote “Hidden Treasures: Searching for Masterpieces of American Furniture” (2000), for which they received a $1 million book contract, according to New York magazine.
They have also been class judges at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance car show in California. And Leigh is on the board of the Appraisers Association of America.
In their joint email to The Times, the brothers said that they were “in the midst of several separate initiatives” and expected to make good on the rest of their debts in the short term.
Similarly, in an email sent in May to the New Orleans auction house, Leigh said they had plans to sell “literally a National Treasure” of their own.
“I have never paid a bill late, nor do I believe, has my brother,” he wrote to the auction house. “The day that we receive the funds in our account, payment will be made to you in full.”
The outstanding bills are not insignificant to the smaller auction houses involved. “We have never had an unpaid invoice of this size,” said Ashton Thomas, president of the New Orleans auction house.
The Keno brothers volunteer their services to “Antiques Roadshow,” and while their appearances have raised their profiles, they are also completely unpaid. The twins are appearing in the season currently airing, and are part of the filming for next season, said Ms. Bemko, the producer.
“They have a real passion for what they do,” she said
She attributed their success partly to personalities that are as pleasant offscreen as on. She said that she hoped any troubles would blow over and that she looked forward to them continuing their role.
“I hope it is business as usual,” she said.Leigh and Leslie Keno, celebrity appraisers who have appeared on “Antiques Roadshow,” went on a buying spree this spring that left them with nearly $600,000 in debt.
Are the Keno brothers still on Antiques Roadshow?
Last Updated: 25th April, 2020
Thereof, are the Keno brothers ill?
Leigh and Leslie Keno, American antique appraisers,. The Keno Brothers, ‘Antiques Roadshow’ appraisers, branch out with furniture line that has a . Aug 22, 2016. In an episode titled “The Sickness,” survivalists succumb to an illness.
Additionally, are Antiques Roadshow appraisals accurate? It should be noted that “appraisal” isn’t an entirely accurate description of what goes on at the Roadshow. According to their website, the price estimates offered by volunteers, though often referred to as “appraisals” on-air, are actually “verbal approximations of value…
Also to know, are the Keno brothers married?
Leslie and Leigh have an older brother, Mitchell Keno, who also works in the family business as an art appraiser. Leigh is not married, but he jointly raised his son, Brandon Keno (aged 22, as of 2019).
How do I get an Antiques Roadshow appraisal?
For information about possible upcoming tours, you can contact ANTIQUES ROADSHOW directly by calling their toll free hotline at 1-888-762-3749 or by emailing them at Antiques Roadshow Contact Form. Contact information for the appraisers featured on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are listed on the ANTIQUE ROADSHOW Appraisers page.The Keno brothers volunteer their services to “Antiques Roadshow,” and while their appearances have raised their profiles, they are also completely unpaid. The twins are appearing in the season currently airing, and are part of the filming for next season, said Ms. Bemko, the producer. ]]>