Christie’s: Upheaval at the Top

christies auction Christies: Upheaval at the Top 

In a surprising and unlikely move, auctioneer Christie’s has hired, from outside, a former publishing, record company and Disney executive as its CEO. For the firm known for, literally, centuries (it was founded in 1766) of Eton-educated top managers and very little turnover, this is a huge cultural shift.

Steven Murphy becomes CEO of Christies International PLC. He has been the president and CEO at magazine publisher Rodale; prior to that, had been executive vice president and managing director for Disney Publishing Worldwide and from 1991-1998, he led a record label group for EMI music as President of EMI Music/Angel Records after coming from Simon & Schuster.

Is Christie’s going into the art-book business? Is Mr. Murphy good at cost-cutting? (Rodale had a slew of layoffs in 2009). The announcement was, interestingly. made by Christie’s parent company, Artemis, owned by luxury-goods magnate Francois Pinault.

As part of the musical chairs, Edward Dolman, the long-time CEO of Christie’s, has been promoted to Chairman of Christie’s International. Two days ago, in a television interview, Mr. Dolman had said that sales year-to-date were up 46%, a faster recovery than he had expected.

Marc Porter, the face of the Europe-based company in the U.S., remains chairman of Christie’s North and South American operations.