Sotheby’s snapped up by French billionaire

The hammer has fallen on Sotheby’s 31 years of public ownership after the venerable auction house was sold for $3.7 billion to Patrick Drahi, the billionaire founder of telecoms group Altice. The deal concludes negotiations that began with an unsolicited approach from Mr Drahi… His purchase means the world’s two largest auction houses will be owned by French billionaires, with Sotheby’s rival Christie’s bought by the Pinault family’s holding company two decades ago. The sale marks a high point in the art market, which has rebounded in spectacular fashion since the fallow years that followed the financial crisis. Sotheby’s and Christie’s have held a series of record-breaking auctions… Mr Drahi is best known for his activity in telecoms and media over the past two decades, where he has used debt-fuelled acquisitions to build Altice, a telecoms and media group that expanded from its French roots to the US, Portugal, Israel and the Dominican Republic. Last year Altice spun off its US business and restructured its European operations after poor results heightened concerns over its ability to service its then €50 billion debt pile… Sotheby’s generated $109 million of net profit last year on revenues of $1.04 billion; both figures were down on 2017, despite the value of works that it sold rising 16 per cent to $6.4 billion.
Arash Massoudi, Eric Platt and Harriet Agnew