Sotheby’s bought by French billionaire Patrick Drahi for $3.7bn

Telecoms entrepreneur pays premium for 275-year-old auction house

Da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' becomes most expensive painting in history

Sotheby’s is to be bought by French-Israeli billionaire and telecoms entrepreneur Patrick Drahi for $3.7bn (£3bn).

The 275-year-old auction house announced on Monday that it has signed an agreement with Mr Drahi who will take Sotheby’s private after more than three decades’ trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Mr Drahi’s BidFair USA company will pay Sotheby’s shareholders a 61 per cent premium on Friday’s closing price.

“After more than 30 years as a public company, the time is right for Sotheby’s to return to private ownership to continue on a path of growth and success,” said board chairman Domenico De Sole.

Sotheby’s rival Christie’s is also under French ownership after it was bought in 1998 by Artemis, the investment company of luxury goods tycoon Francois-Henri Pinault.

Between them, the two London-founded companies dominate the international market for sales of fine art and collectibles.

Mr Drahi, 55, is controlling shareholder of French telecommunications firm Altice, which he founded in 2001 and which has since rapidly expanded through a series of acquisitions of cable and mobile operations.

He said he was “honoured” that Sotheby’s had recommended his offer, which will see shareholders compensated at £45.50 per share.

“Sotheby’s is one of the most elegant and aspirational brands in the world,” Mr Drahi said. “As a longtime client and lifetime admirer of the company, I am acquiring Sotheby’s together with my family.”

Tad Smith, Sotheby’s chief executive, welcomed Mr Drahi as “one of the most well-regarded entrepreneurs in the world ... known for his commitment to innovation and ingenuity”.

Mr Smith added: “This acquisition will provide Sotheby’s with the opportunity to accelerate the successful programme of growth initiatives of the past several years in a more flexible private environment.”

Sotheby’s said it expects the deal to close in the fourth quarter of this year subject to approval by shareholders.

The 61 per cent premium to be paid by Mr Drahi is an indication of the strength of the markets for fine art and collectibles, which was underlined by the November 2017 sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting Salvatore Mundi for a world record $450m (£359m).

Global art sales grew 6 per cent in 2018 to $67.4bn (£54bn), according to a report from UBS and art fair organisers Art Basel. Over 80 per cent of works sold at auction for over $1m were sold by Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the report said.

Founded in 1744, Sotheby’s sells a variety of items at its 10 auction houses around the world, including jewellery, watches, wine and fine art.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in