Amazon.com takes 1.7% stake in Sotheby's

IN A startling fusion of the computer mouse and the gavel, Amazon.com, the pioneer cyberspace retailer of books and music, revealed yesterday that it is spending $45m (pounds 28.3m) on a 1.7 per cent stake in Sotheby's, the venerable auction house.

The deal reflects the transformation of the auction business. It has become increasingly apparent that selling art through cyberspace is here for good.

The change has been driven in particular by the wild success of the online auction company, eBay. Notwithstanding a nasty blip last Friday when its website crashed, eBay has risen meteorically. It has democratised the auction business, allowing anyone to sell and buy anything from an antique bicycle to a South Pacific tribal headdress.

In recent months Sotheby's, its arch-rival Christie's and Amazon itself have all set up auction websites. By linking up with Sotheby's and taking on some of its gloss, Amazon clearly hopes to close the gap on eBay. "Who better to help than Sotheby's?" Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, asked.

Under a 10-year agreement signed yesterday, Amazon and Sotheby's will set up a joint auction site of their own to be called sothebys.amazon.com, which should be up and running before the end of the year. Both firms say their existing auction websites will remain in operation.

The new site will be distinct in one important way. Goods for sale - from art, antiques, Hollywood memorabilia and coins - will be offered exclusively by Sotheby's itself and a group of selected dealers. They will also be guaranteed by Sotheby's.

Shares in both companies rose strongly yesterday. Amazon agreed to buy 1 million shares of Sotheby's Holdings class A common stock at $35.44 per share and also to buy, for $10m, three-year warrants to buy an extra 1 million shares at $100 per share.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

Guru Careers: C# Project Team Lead

£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...

Guru Careers: Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant

£16 - 20k: Guru Careers: A Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant is needed to ...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Day In a Page

Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

Hipsters of Arabia

Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

The cult of Roger Federer

What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

Malaysian munchies

With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
10 best festival beauty

Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

A Different League

Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

Steve Bunce on Boxing

Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf