Meet the man who sold his Ferrari 250 GTO for a record $48 million

4 November 2018 - Autoblog

Meet the man who sold his Ferrari 250 GTO for a record $48 million

His life's journey from a Dodge Dart to one of the world's most desired cars

We all took notice back in August when a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sold at RM Sotheby's in Monterey, bringing a record price for a car at auction: $48.4 million. The man who benefited — both from the proceeds and from his 18 years owning one of the rarest, most desirable cars in the world, chatted recently with Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur about what it was like to say goodbye to such a beautiful machine — and how he's able to console himself with a serious collection of other fine cars.

Despite the car, the third of 36, being "one of the most significant Ferraris ever built, bar none," in Sotheby's words, Brodeur says Whitten regularly toodled around in it in Redmond, Wash. — to lunch, on errands, to car shows — Redmond being a place where you do see an awful lot of incredible daily drivers streaming into the Microsoft campus. Whitten, now chairman of Numerix, a financial software company, was one of Microsoft's earliest employees, hired in 1979 by the late Paul Allen himself.

He describes what it was like to be sitting on the front row at Monterey when the gavel came down. Even for a multimillionaire, multimillions being thrown around by three bidders for a single car is "very hard to fathom," he told CNBC. "But you're in a space where you have car collectors, and Ferraris are the most collectible car, and the GTO is the pinnacle Ferrari."

"I miss it a little bit," Whitten says. But the world is full of wonderful cars, and an awful lot of them are tucked away in his warehouse. Plus, Whitten spent more than $2 million on the same night the GTO sold, picking up another Ferrari and three vintage Jaguars, including a 1967 E-Type as a birthday present for his wife, Michelle.

In the column, he reflects on his beginnings as a driver — as an 11-year-old wheelman helping his brother deliver newspapers in their parents' station wagon. And on being a broke mathematics doctorate whose first car was a Dodge Dart. And on the beginnings of his collection when the Microsoft millions kicked in; on purchasing a 1935 ERA 1.5L Grand Prix racer from a Thai princess; and that time he hit 174 mph on an airport runway.

Here's the column, if you'd like to learn more about a guy who sounds like he's had a pretty great life. And below are two videos put out by Sotheby's ahead of the auction. In the first, Whitten drives the Ferrari, talks about his love of cars — and you get a glimpse of his collection. The second video describes the car's considerable provenance.