Sotheby's goes private as it is sold for $3.7bn

The Art Newspaper 17 June 2019
By Anna Brady

French-Israeli media billionaire Patrick Drahi's company BidFair USA buys firm from shareholders

Patrick Drahi

Sotheby’s has been sold to BidFair USA, a company wholly owned by the French-Israeli media and telecom entrepreneur and art collector Patrick Drahi in a deal worth around $3.7bn.

The deal means that after 31 years of public trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Sotheby's will—like its rival Christie’s—become a private company owned by a French billionaire.

All shareholders, including employee shareholders, will receive $57 per share of Sotheby’s common stock—representing a premium of 61% to the closing price of Sotheby’s stock on 14 June. This represents “a significant premium to market for our shareholders” says Domenico De Sole, the chairman of Sotheby’s board of directors, in a statement.

Tad Smith, Sotheby’s chief executive, says the “more flexible private environment” will enable the firm to “accelerate” its growth initiatives.

Sotheby’s became a UK public company in 1977 before going private in 1983 when it was acquired by Alfred Taubman. It then went public again in the US in 1988 as Sotheby's Holdings, Inc. and was renamed "Sotheby's" in 2006.

In a statement, Drahi says: “With my family, we are very enthusiastic to build together with its [Sotheby’s] current management and their teams the future of Sotheby’s.”

Drahi says he has "full confidence" in Sotheby's management and does "not anticipate any change to the Company's strategy”. He adds: “I am making this investment for my family, through my personal holding, with a very long-term perspective. There is no capital link with Altice Europe or Altice USA.”

The acquisition, Drahi says, “will be funded by financings arranged and underwritten by BNP Paribas as well as by equity provided from my own funds. To help fund this transaction, I do not intend to sell any shares in Altice Europe NV; my intention is to monetize a small position in Altice USA up to $400m by the end of the year.”

Following the announcement, at the time of writing, Sotheby’s share price had risen 57% to around $55.70.
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