Former Sotheby's head gets probation hy

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The former Sotheby's chief executive Diana "Dede" Brooks, once seen as the most powerful woman in the art world, has been sentenced to three years' probation for her role in a scheme with the rival auction house Christie's to fix commission fees.

Although US District Judge George Daniels granted Brooks, 51, a light sentence, he called her a criminal in a business suit who had traded "fame for shame" in a scam that cost customers of the houses more than $100m.

"You have allowed yourself to go from a successful respected executive to being ridiculed as a caricature for melodrama," he said. "The notoriety you have gained will outlive you." As part of her probation, he ordered Brooks to serve six months of home detention, perform 1,000 hours of community service and pay a fine of $350,000.

The case rocked the rarefied art world with accusations of deceit, backstabbing and shady deal-making between the two houses, which together control about 90 percent of the world's live auctions of art, jewellery and furniture.

Brooks avoided a prison term of up to three years by pleading guilty to an antitrust charge and cooperating with the authorities. She was a key witness against her former boss, A Alfred Taubman, 78, a wealthy real estate mogul and philanthropist, who was convicted of spearheading the scheme and sentenced last week to one year and one day in prison.

Federal prosecutors urged the court to be lenient with Brooks saying they would not have been able to convict Taubman, Sotheby's former chairman, without her help.