Sotheby’s, one of the world’s largest brokers of fine art, jewelry, and collectibles, has a rich history dating back to its establishment in 1744. Over the years, the ownership of Sotheby’s has changed hands several times, with the company experiencing different levels of success under different owners.
History of Sotheby’s Ownership
Sotheby’s was initially founded in London by Samuel Baker, a bookseller, and George Leigh, an auctioneer. The auction house gained recognition and prominence under the ownership of John Sotheby, who joined the company in 1801. John Sotheby’s descendants continued to manage the business until the mid-20th century.
In 1983, Sotheby’s went public and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “BID.” This move allowed the general public to own shares of the company and participate in its growth.
Alfred Taubman’s Ownership
One of the most significant ownership periods in Sotheby’s history was under the leadership of Alfred Taubman, an American real estate developer, who acquired the auction house in 1983. Taubman’s vision was to modernize Sotheby’s and expand its market globally.
During Taubman’s ownership, Sotheby’s witnessed considerable growth and established itself as a pioneer in the art auction industry. However, Taubman’s tenure was not without controversy. In 2001, he was convicted of price-fixing with rival auction house Christie’s, leading to legal ramifications for both companies.
Following Alfred Taubman’s ownership, Sotheby’s faced financial challenges and changes in ownership. Sotheby’s was acquired by entrepreneur Patrick Drahi’s BidFair USA in 2019, taking the company private. Drahi’s acquisition aimed to provide Sotheby’s with the necessary resources and support to thrive in a rapidly evolving and competitive market.
Under BidFair USA’s ownership, Sotheby’s has continued to expand its global reach and adapt to changing consumer preferences. The company remains a dominant player in the art auction industry, organizing prestigious sales and showcasing priceless artworks.
As of writing, Sotheby’s is owned by BidFair USA, which is controlled by Patrick Drahi. Drahi, a French-Israeli billionaire and telecommunications magnate, has displayed a keen interest in the art world and recognizes the potential value of owning a prestigious auction house like Sotheby’s.
The acquisition by BidFair USA has allowed Sotheby’s to focus on long-term strategies and enhance its digital presence, leveraging technology to attract new and younger clientele.
Sotheby’s ownership has evolved throughout its long history. From its humble beginnings under John Sotheby’s family to its transformation under Alfred Taubman and now with BidFair USA, Sotheby’s continues to be a prominent force in the art auction industry. The current ownership by BidFair USA provides resources and support for Sotheby’s growth while adapting to the changing dynamics of the art market.