Sotheby's ditches its long-serving chairman and chief executive


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The Independent Culture

The rarefied world of art auctioneering was gripped by intrigue yesterday after news that Sotheby’s, labouring through a rough patch, is to ditch its long-serving chairman and chief executive.

The move is the handiwork of David Loeb, a billionaire hedge-fund manager who a little over a year ago took direct aim at the company, demanding change at the top.

He famously described it as “an old master painting in desperate need of restoration”, while amassing shares.

It has been a campaign that has left Sotheby’s looking a little less certain of itself than its reputation would suggest. Last week it took $343.6m at its autumn contemporary sale, while its arch rival Christies managed to ring up $852.9m at its contemporary night.

The man being shown the door at Sotheby’s headquarters – selling the building is one of Mr Loeb’s demands – is William Ruprecht who has held the tiller for 14 years. With its autumn sales nearly concluded, Sotheby’s will be straining to avoid projecting any sense of panic.