French billionaire to acquire Sotheby’s in $3.7b deal
Published on: Wednesday, June 19, 2019

PARIS: French telecoms and media mogul Patrick Drahi is acquiring Sotheby’s auction house, one of the world’s biggest art brokers, in a $3.7 billion deal, the British-founded company announced Monday.

Drahi, the billionaire founder of the Altice empire which owns SFR telecoms company and several French media houses including BFM news channel and Liberation newspaper, is paying $57 per share to acquire Sotheby’s through his company BidFair USA, the art house said.

His foray into the art market sees him follow in the footsteps of fellow French billionaire, Kering Chairman Francois Pinault, who acquired a majority stake in Sotheby’s rival Christie’s in 1998.

The deal returns British-founded Sotheby’s to private ownership after 31 years as a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.

Its shares soared 58 per cent in afternoon trading in New York on news of the offer, which represents a 61 per cent increase over Sotheby’s closing price on Friday.

“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.

“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, France’s ninth richest individual with an estimated net worth of $9.1 billion according to Forbes magazine, said that he was “honoured” that Sotheby’s board had recommended to shareholders that they accept his offer.

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

The deal, which is subject to regulatory and shareholder approval, is expected to be finalised in the fourth quarter of 2019 and comes as prices fetched by artworks at auction soar.

Last month Sotheby’s sold a Monet painting from the Impressionist’s celebrated “Meules” (Haystacks) series for $110.7 million, an auction record for the artist. – AFP


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