Sotheby’s back in private ownership after £3.7bn sale

Entrepreneur and art collector Patrick Drahi has agreed to acquire auction house Sotheby’s for US$3.7 billion.

The purchase brings the auction house – which deals in wine and spirits sales, among other collectable goods – back into private ownership after 31 years as a public company traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

The deal, which was agreed by Sotheby’s board of directors, will give shareholders (including employee shareholders) US$57 in cash per share of Sotheby’s. This represents a premium of 61% to Sotheby’s closing price on 14 June.

Tad Smith, Sotheby’s CEO, said: “Patrick Drahi is one of the most well-regarded entrepreneurs in the world, and on behalf of everyone at Sotheby’s, I want to welcome him to the family. 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.

“He has a long-term view and shares our brand vision for great client service and employing innovation to enhance the value of the company for clients and employees.

“This acquisition will provide Sotheby’s with the opportunity to accelerate the successful program of growth initiatives of the past several years in a more flexible private environment. It positions us very well for our future and I strongly believe that the company will be in excellent hands for decades to come with Patrick as our owner.”

The closing of the deal is subject to customary conditions, including regulatory clearance and shareholder approval, but is not subject to the availability of financing. The purchase is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2019, shareholder approval permitting.

Lion Tree Advisors is acting as financial advisor to Sotheby’s regarding the transaction. Sullivan and Cromwell LLP is serving as the firm’s legal advisors.

Drahi commented: “I am honoured that the Board of Sotheby’s has decided to recommend my offer. Sotheby’s is one of the most elegant and aspirational brands in the world.

“As a long-time client and lifetime admirer of the company, I am acquiring Sotheby’s together with my family. We thank Domenico and the rest of the Sotheby’s board for its support and look forward to getting started with Tad and the wonderful members of his team to define our future.”

Last month, Sotheby’s announced it had hired Jonny Fowle as its first spirits specialist due to “blockbuster demand” for rare whiskies.

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