Carlyle’s Rubenstein Pays $21M For Magna Carta Copy

Dec 19 2007 | 3:28pm ET

A modern-day buyout baron has bought a 710-year-old copy of the Magna Carta, one of the most important documents in the history of democracy.

David Rubenstein's Magna Carta: courtesy Sotheby'sMagna Carta: courtesy Sotheby'sCarlyle Group founder David Rubenstein won the auction for the priceless artifact for $21.3 million, below the $30 million the document had been expected to garner. The Perot Foundation, which has owned the copy for more than 20 years, auctioned it at Sotheby’s in New York yesterday.

Magna Carta, which Sotheby’s vice chairman David Redden called “the most important document in the world, the birth certificate of freedom,” was forced upon England’s King John by his barons in 1215, which strictly limited the monarch’s power and is credited with giving birth to both constitutional democracy and the common law.

Rubenstein’s copy, which dates not from 1215 but 1297, had been housed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., from 1988 until earlier this year. Rubenstein said he plans to reinstall the Magna Carta at the National Archives. It is one of only 17 extant “original” copies of the document.

“I thought it was very important that the Magna Carta stay in the U.S.,” Rubenstein told the New York Post. “I feared it would escape and go to another country.”

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