Paris hammer blow

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The Independent Online

Gonzagne de Blignières, who is heading the Barclays bid, saidthat it had the support of the 110 auctioneers who in effect own the auctioneer. Under the bid, they can retain up to 49 per cent of the company and have a veto over any potential future sale.

"Our idea is to increase the quantity of business handled by Drouot," said Mr de Blignières.

"We want to launch a specialised TV channel showing auctions and make Drouot international, opening sales- rooms in London and New York," he added.

The plan would pitch Drouot against the big three firms in the auction business, Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips.

All three originate from London, but the former is now owned by American investors and the latter two by French magnates – François Pinault and Bernard Arnault, respectively. Despite this cross-Channel trade, the French press has been up in arms about the likelihood of "Les Rosbifs" buying Drouot.

Mr de Blignières dismissed those worries. "It is only British money. We are French managers."