Lot 2119: Bugsy Siegel Signed Stock Certificate
24th June 2017
Rare DS, signed “Ben Siegel,” one page both sides, 10.5 x 8, April 18, 1947. Nevada Project Corporation stock certificate issued to Louis I. Pokrass for “75 shares of the Common Stock of the Nevada Project Corporation.” Signed at the conclusion in black ink by Siegel as president, and countersigned in black ballpoint by N. Joseph Ross as secretary; Ross was Siegel's Beverly Hills Attorney and one of the principal officers of the famed Flamingo Hotel. Reverse of the certificate is signed by Pokrass and Siegel’s New York connection Walter R. Mansfield. In very good to fine condition, with several vertical folds, one through a single letter of signature, and scattered staple holes. Document originates from the estate of Louis Pokrass, the former vice president of the Nevada Project Corporation and one of four directors of the Flamingo Hotel. When developer William Wilkerson exhausted construction funds for his new Flamingo Hotel in early 1946, Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, and other crime heads emerged as silent partners with a one million dollar investment. According to When the Mob Ran Vegas by Steve Fischer, Pokrass’s shares in the Flamingo were actually owned by a group of fifteen New York mobsters—Joe Adonis and Frank Costello among them—but were put in Pokrass's name to conceal their hidden ownership. In order to run the hotel, Siegel appointed himself president of the Nevada Projects Corporation in June 1946. The Flamingo opened the day after Christmas, but building costs, poor turnouts, and large gambling losses resulted in its quick closure, and Siegel scrambling to find additional backers. The Flamingo reopened on March 1, 1947, and showed modest profits soon thereafter, but Siegel’s mob partners, fed up with waiting for reimbursement, had the gangster gunned down just two months after he signed this certificate. This historic stock certificate not only represents the legend of Bugsy Siegel in Vegas but also the New York mob’s original interest in the Flamingo—there may be no surviving document more crucial to the mob's history in Vegas and the origins of the Flamingo than this.
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