Art: Billionaire buys trophy auction house
The art market flies high.
Sotheby’s this week auctioned off its priciest item yet—itself, saidScott Reyburn in The New York Times. After 31 years on the New York Stock Exchange, Sotheby’s is returning to private ownership, bought by the French telecom billionaire Patrick Drahi for $3.7 billion. The move should “level the playing field” between Sotheby’s and its archrival, Christie’s, which has belonged to a holding company owned by another French billionaire, Francois-Henri Pinault, since 1998. As “the only publicly traded major auction house,” Sotheby’s “has had to justify every business decision” to shareholders. That transparency “is a challenge for a business that relies on seasonal revenue” and tends to be cyclical.
“Securing major consignments in today’s booming global market requires making major concessions to sellers,” said Eileen Kinsella and Tim Schneider in Artnet.com—including guarantees of nine-figure minimum prices on top works, or even a cut of the auction house’s commission. An owner with deep pockets can allow Sotheby’s to “make the same outsize promises as” Christie’s without worrying about the stock tanking “when aggressive guarantee deals don’t go according to plan.” The bad news: Having all the major auction houses in private hands will leave the public with even less insight into the workings of the multibillion-dollar world art market.