Sotheby's sold to French-Israeli billionaire for $3.7bn

18 Juin, 2019, 12:55 | Auteur: Christine Menetries

A woman stands in front of Andy Warhol's "Superman" at a pre-auction viewing at Sotheby's in Los Angeles, California.

Sotheby's has accepted a merger offer from entrepreneur Patrick Drahi, who will purchase the auction house for $3.7 billion.

"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", he added.

Drahi's expansion in the United States also has echoes of former Vivendi boss Jean-Marie Messier, who helped Vivendi move into entertainment via the Universal business.

The deal also marks a new chapter for the 275-year-old auction house that became a destination for a new generation of wealth created on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and around the world.

While rival Christie's occupies more of the top slots in tables of the largest art sales, Sotheby's has brought the hammer down on high-profile artworks and books, including a 710-year-old copy of the Magna Carta for $21.3m and Edvard Munch's The Scream, which went for $120m in 2012.

It will also result in Sotheby's returning to private ownership after 31 years as a public company whose shares were traded on the NY market.

Drahi, head of the Altice empire which owns Virgin Mobile and several French media houses including BFM news channel and Liberation newspaper, is paying $57 US per share to acquire Sotheby's through his company BidFair USA, the art house said. The offer represented a premium of 61 percent to Sotheby's closing price on Friday, and gives it a market capitalization of $2.6 billion.

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Sotheby's has faced cost-cutting and pressure from hedge fund investors Dan Loeb and Mick McGuire ever since the financial crisis of 2008 put luxury companies into jeopardy.

A report published by Swiss bank UBS and Art Basel in March said that the global art market had enjoyed another uptick in 2018.

"Known for his commitment to innovation and ingenuity, Patrick founded and leads some of the most successful telecommunications, media and digital companies in the world", Tad Smith, Sotheby's CEO, said in the statement. Before Monday the stock was down 11 per cent in the year to date.

Born in Morocco, Drahi, 55, was trained at the selective Polytechnique school in Paris, and holds dual French and Israeli citizenship.

"Sotheby's is one of the most elegant and aspirational brands in the world, said the buyer, Patrick Drahi".

Drahi said his investment was aimed at the "very long term" and that he had no plans to change Sotheby's business strategy.

Loeb, a prominent art collector, on Monday praised the sale.

Mr Loeb's Third Point group is the second-biggest investor with a 14% stake.

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