For $40 million. The New York Times:
"Christie's is being sued by a family trust led by the Connecticut collector George A. Weiss, who says the auction house reneged on a $40 million guarantee when it tried but failed to sell a 1964 painting by Francis Bacon in November. The lawsuit, filed in the United States Southern District Court on Friday, claims that Christie’s ... agreed to give the trust, Weiss Family Art, a guarantee — a sum promised to the seller regardless of the sale’s outcome — of $40 million for the painting. ... An agreement was struck in late July, but by September, after the auction house already had the painting, Christie’s said it would no longer honor the guarantee because of the faltering global economy. Christie’s was not able to sell the painting. Now the trust is suing for the $40 million it says it was promised."
You can guess what Christie's defense will be from this Nov. 2, 2008 article by Carol Vogel (which bore the headline: "No Guarantee For This One"):
"Early last summer a ... collector negotiated a hefty guarantee from Christie's in consigning his 1964 'Study for Self-Portrait' by Francis Bacon for the fall auctions. In the months it took to hammer out details of the contract, economic turmoil grew so worrisome that Christie's got cold feet and withdrew the guarantee. The auction house persuaded the seller to offer the Bacon anyway, and it is one of the highlights of Christie's Nov. 12 sale. Experts say that the full-length portrait ... should sell for around $40 million."
And here's Vogel's report the morning after the sale. Experts were wrong: "What was expected to be the star -- a 1964 self-portrait by Francis Bacon that was estimated at $40 million -- went unsold without so much as a bid."