Odyssey Marine Exploration went to the depths of the seas to salvage a centuries-old shipwreck from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean earlier this month. Now the Tampa-based company will have to climb a legal mountain to determine who gets the bounty – and a presidential candidate is involved.
The biggest shareholder in Odyssey is New York-based Fortress Investments, a private equity and hedge fund manager. The group’s major investor is presidential candidate John Edwards. Last year Edwards received a salary of $479,000, according to financial disclosure forms, while acting as a senior consultant.
But if Edwards wants the bullion, he may have to put some lawyering skills to work.
James Goold, of counsel at Covington & Burling, filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida yesterday on behalf of his client, the Kingdom of Spain. The suit lays Spanish claim to what may be the richest shipwreck treasure in history. The ship, code-named Black Swan, has an assortment of silver coins thought to be worth $500 million.
Goold says that Odyssey’s refusal to identify the ship, its cargo, or its location has prevented Spain from determining whether it owned the vessel.
“When you conduct salvage without consent you are acting entirely at your own risk,” says Goold. “But all of the information thus far suggests the bullion was Spanish.”
Which means Edwards may also have to start flexing those foreign policy muscles.