Trudeau beats Obama as APEC chairs sell for P8.8 M

Tanya T. Lara (The Philippine Star) - December 17, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A special chair used by “APEC hottie” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during last month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit was auctioned for P2.050 million, beating US President Barack Obama’s chair, which fetched P2 million for UNICEF.

The bidding, which opened online last week at the starting price of P75,000 for each chair, culminated in a live auction on Wednesday night at designer Kenneth Cobonpue’s showroom in Makati.

Trudeau and Obama’s chairs were part of a lot of six donated by Cobonpue, who designed the APEC Yoda chairs that were used during the APEC Leaders’ Meeting welcome reception in Manila last month. Cobonpue donated them through UNICEF Philippines ambassador Daphne Oseña-Paez, who has held three previous “Auction for Action” for UNICEF since 2011.

The six APEC chairs raised P8.8 million, with Trudeau’s selling for 27.3 times its retail price of P75,000. The third chair that fetched the highest price was the one used by President Aquino for P1.55 million, followed by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto for P1.5 million, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for P1 million and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for P710,000.

According to Paez, the Obama chair was leading all week online. “By the time we started the live auction, Obama was at P161,000, Trudeau and Nieto at P150,000, Aquino at P113,000, Abe and Lee at P100,000.”

“I was shocked and elated when the first chair started to go beyond half a million and then the price began climbing in a mad frenzy,” Cobonpue said. “I was expecting the Obama chair to reach only a bit more. To say that the overall results were phenomenal is an understatement.”

Paez said, “This was our first time to do a live auction. All three previous auctions, which raised a combined total of P8.1 million, were done via eBay where people waited for the last minute before bidding online.”

All winning bidders are art collectors, with the top two bidders participating live on the floor and the four others represented by proxies.

“It was nerve-wracking for me,” said Paez, who was the auctioneer on behalf of UNICEF. “I had to make sure we addressed the concerns of all bidders. For this, we relied on technology to broadcast the event live on YouTube and for bidders to participate via SMS. The minutes leading up to the event, we were nervous but when the auction was up and running, it was all excitement. The first time the first chair (Japan) reached P300,000, there was a collective gasp on the floor, then it broke P500,000. When the second chair (Singapore) hit P1 million, I was almost about to cry.”

Why did the chairs sell for so much? Only the six chairs have a metal plaque on the back signifying the name of the leader who sat on it. Paez said, “Also they were part of history. It was Obama’s last APEC and Trudeau’s first as he was inaugurated as prime minister just days before APEC.”

Cobonpue said the hype surrounding the Philippines’ hosting of the event and the “APEC Hotties” also helped a lot.

The APEC Yoda swivel chair will no longer be produced. Cobonpue made 60 of them as requested by Malacañang last year, and sold 54 chairs at their retail price.

The chair was based on Cobonpue’s 2007 Yoda chair and made of rattan reeds, nylon and steel. Apart from the six chairs he donated, two of the most sought-after chairs were the ones used by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the latter bought as a gift for one of the country’s richest taipans.

All proceeds from the auction will fund UNICEF’s First 1,000 Days, a global initiative by UNICEF to provide babies the nutritional, health and mental support they need to develop in their first 1,000 days starting from conception.

Paez said the amount raised on Wednesday night “will enable UNICEF to help save the lives of over 50,000 children and mothers with the following interventions: immediate treatment for severe acute malnutrition; micronutrient supplementation to address vitamin and mineral deficiencies; and essential prenatal and neonatal care in health centers located in far-flung communities.”

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