White Truffle Prices Crash 84% As Even Wealthy Get Reamed

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  1. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601088&sid=arztOzW6vtLI&refer=home

    White Truffle Prices Collapse as Economic Slump Deters Bidders

    By Bret Okeson

    [​IMG]An undated handout photograph shows Umberto Bombana, executive chef for the Ritz-Carlton hotel, holding up a plate of white truffles, provided to the media on Nov. 10, 2008. Source: Ritz-Carlton via Bloomberg News

    Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) --
    White truffles prices collapsed as the wealthy pare back on luxuries amid the global economic crisis.

    An 850-gram white truffle from northern Italy sold for 24,000 euros ($30,900) at the 10th Annual World Alba White Truffle Auction in Tokyo last night. By weight, that's 84 percent less than the $330,000 Macau casino billionaire Stanley Ho paid for a 1.5 kilogram truffle last year.

    The auction, held simultaneously in Tokyo and the Italian towns of Grinzane Cavour and Merano, raised a combined 118,000 euros for various charities, including the United Way and victims of the September bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad. A similar charity auction last year raised $453,000.

    ``The financial crisis has definitely had an impact,'' Bruno Libralon, president of Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners, arranger of the three auctions, said in an interview in Tokyo. ``It's sad because it means less money going for charities.''

    The winning bidder, Kazumasa Terada, founder and president of handbag retailer Samantha Thavasa Japan Ltd., said he will have a chef prepare half the truffle for a private dinner and give the other half to the Ritz-Carlton hotel, the auction's Tokyo venue.

    ``It's my first time to buy a truffle,'' Terada, 42, said in an interview. ``I'll have a party for my friends; this truffle is probably enough for fifty people.''

    Terada's 65 percent stake in Samantha Terada is worth about 5 billion yen ($50.5 million). The value of his holdings has dropped about 69 percent this year.

    White truffles are intensely aromatic and grated over dishes raw, unlike black truffles, which are generally cooked to bring out the full flavor.

    Sumo Wrestler, Figure Skater

    The credit crunch, sparked by the collapse of the subprime mortgage market in the U.S. has led to losses and writedowns of almost $700 billion at financial companies. A stock sell-off last month wiped out more than $9.5 trillion in equity value worldwide.

    The Tokyo auction attracted about 110 people including Akebono, a former Sumo Yokozuna, or grand champion, who bid unsuccessfully for one of five truffles sold on-site and Shizuka Arakawa, an Olympic gold medalist figure skater, who didn't bid at all. Other bidders included local restaurateur Elio Orsara, who bought a 226-gram truffle for 775,000 yen.

    The 850-gram fungus will be flown from Italy to Japan today.