Despite a number of lawsuits from disgruntled dissenters who wanted to prevent the overhaul from happening, on Thursday, Sotheby’s shareholders voted in favor of the auction house’s sale to Patrick Drahi, the billionaire telecom executive who has valued the business at $3.7 billion.
According to Sotheby’s, this means that the deal is on track to close by the end of this calendar year. A number of people spent their summer litigiously trying to convince the Securities and Exchange Commission that Sotheby’s shouldn’t be sold on the grounds that the auction house had filed insufficient information about its cash flow. Ultimately, it looks like their efforts were for naught.
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“This is an historic moment for Sotheby’s and we are very pleased to have the validation of the company’s shareholders,” Sotheby’s CEO Tad Smith said in a statement. “Sotheby’s is on track for another strong season with outstanding auctions set to be held in Hong Kong and contemporary art sales that will inaugurate our newly-renovated space on Bond Street in London early next month.”
Indeed, Sotheby’s becoming privately owned puts it in the same category as Phillips and Christie’s, some of its biggest enemies in the jostling art market. However, there’s also evidence that Sotheby’s transition of ownership over the next couple of months won’t be an entirely smooth one. Hong Kong has been in turmoil all summer as protesters demonstrate against a proposed extradition bill, and the uproar has made loyal denizens of the Chinese art market uneasy. Seasoned executive Rebecca Wei left her post as chairman of Christie’s Asia in August after only 8 months on the job, and it’s unclear whether perks like newly-opened high-end shopping centers on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront will be able to draw loyal audiences.
For Sotheby’s, the objective during this period of change will be to rack up huge, newsworthy sales at a barrage of upcoming auctions so customers will be reassured that everything’s business as usual. Once the sale is squared away, there’ll be few limits when it comes to innovation tactics the auction house can pursue.