Jim Irsay, owner of some of the world’s most iconic guitars, says he was offered over $1 billion to sell his collection and relocate it to Dubai

Jim Irsay with some of his guitar collection – valued at over $1 billion
Jim Irsay's collection includes (L-R) Bob Dylan's Newport Strat, David Gilmour's Black Strat, Prince's Cloud guitar, George Harrison's SG and Kurt Cobain's Mustang (Image credit: JC Olivera / Stringer / Steve Jennings / Getty)

Jim Irsay has revealed that he has received an offer from a “middle east element” to purchase his renowned pop culture and guitar collection in its entirety. 

The businessman and Indianapolis Colts owner has steadily acquired the world’s finest collection of iconic guitars, music and sports memorabilia.

It includes some of rock music’s most famous electric guitars, among them David Gilmour’s Black Fender Stratocaster, Jerry Garcia’s Tiger, the Strat Bob Dylan used to ‘go electric’ at the Newport Folk Festival and the Fender Mustang that Kurt Cobain used in the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit

And that’s before we get on to the world’s only complete Beatles drum kit, the original single-scroll manuscript of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and even Muhammed Ali’s Championship belt from his 1974 Rumble in the Jungle victory over George Foreman.

Now, in a new conversation with Eddie Trunk, Irsay says the offer from an unnamed middle eastern contingent mirrors some of the recent big money moves made from the region into sports like golf and soccer. 

The purchase offer, which it seems Irsay has turned down, would have reportedly seen the collection moved in its entirety to Dubai.

“I was offered by a middle east element – kind of like what’s been going on in golf a little bit – 1.150 billion dollars for the collection,” Irsay tells Trunk [around 58 mins]. “They wanted to move it to Dubai and they wanted it in totality.”

While Irsay does not go into further detail about the origin of the bid, it would likely have meant the loss of a significant chunk of the US’s cultural heritage.

David Gilmour's Black Fender Stratocaster

David Gilmour's Black Fender Stratocaster (Image credit: Joby Sessions/Future)

Currently, Irsay periodically displays the collection and arranges free tours and performances featuring celebrity names – for instance, Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s performance of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb on Gilmour’s Black Strat last year.

Elsewhere in the conversation, Irsay explains his attachment to the collection and discusses some of the most valuable items – revealing that the most expensive purchase was not a guitar. 

“I’ve put this together for 25 years, with blood, sweat and tears,” says Irsay. “The collective of this ‘collection’ is so incredible, because there’s nothing like it. And you can’t get certain things anymore. You can’t get [Jerry Garcia’s guitar] Tiger anymore. You can’t get David Gilmour’s Strat or the Beatles drum kit. It’s just not out there. 

“The highest [value] thing that was bought at auction was actually Ali’s belt,” continues Irsay. “That went for almost seven million dollars. 

“[Then] the guitars keep breaking records. Gilmour’s Strat went for four million and 67 nations tuned in to that auction… Everything keeps going really up in value, because they’ve been owned for more than 20 years.”

In the same conversation, Irsay also names his favorite guitar from his $1 billion collection. If you want to hear the whole chat, head to The Eddie Trunk podcast

For more on some of the instrument’s from Irsay’s incredible haul, read about the 12 most expensive guitars sold at auction.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.