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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Marketing Plan for Sunken Treasure Upheld

(CN) - A California company has a valid deal to market sunken treasure from the Gold Rush, an Ohio appeals court ruled.

Columbus Exploration LLC and Recovery Limited Partnership (RLP) asked the Franklin County (Ohio) Court of Appeals to repudiate their contract with California Gold Marketing Group Inc. relating to the treasure from the S.S. Central America.

The U.S. Mail steamship was carrying several tons of gold from the California Gold Rush when it went down in a hurricane off the South Carolina coast in 1857.

Thomas Thompson, a researcher in Columbus, Ohio, organized a successful search party in the mid-1980s, recovering artifacts and more than a ton of gold and silver.

Thompson's group sold the recovered treasure to California Gold for $36 million. The parties also reached a deal to market the "Down" treasure, which has not yet been recovered.

California Gold marketed the treasure with a documentary on The History Channel and a museum exhibit called "Gold! Gold!", which toured museums around the world.

The exhibit featured an 80-pound bar of gold, the largest and heaviest known to exist.

Columbus Exploration and RLP went into receivership after complaints from their investors, and the receiver, Ira Kane, filed a motion to repudiate the marketing contract with California Gold.

The trial court granted the motion, but the 10th District Ohio Court of Appeals overturned the ruling in a decision written by Judge John A. Connor.

"Although we agree that California Gold's previous marketing campaign served in some respects to market the treasure from the S.S. Central America as a whole, the previous marketing contract did not satisfy California Gold's substantial obligations under the marketing contract for the Down treasure," Connor wrote.

In treasury-hunting parlance, the words "Up" and "Down" refer to treasure that has been recovered ("Up"), and the quantities that remain under water ("Down").

He added that until the Down treasure is recovered, nobody knows how many gold bars or other valuable items will be available for sale.

"Because California Gold has yet to sell a piece of Down treasure, and the receiver accordingly has not paid California Gold any amount in commission, neither party has fulfilled its substantial obligations under the marketing contract," Connor wrote.

After an extensive examination of the contract, Connor ruled that the trial court should not have agreed with the receiver's claim that the deal was undesirable.

"The relevant contract language does not support the receiver's contention that the receivership entities have 'no control whatsoever with regard to the marketing of the Down treasure,'" the judge wrote on behalf of the appeals court's three-judge panel.

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