Sotheby's auction house to go private in $3.7B deal

Billionaire entrepreneur and art collector Patrick Drahi is taking auction house Sotheby's private in a deal valued at $3.7 billion.

Drahi, head of the Altice empire which owns Virgin Mobile and several French media houses including BFM news channel and Liberation newspaper, is paying $57 US per share to acquire Sotheby's through his company BidFair USA, the art house said.

That is a 61 per cent premium to the company's Friday closing stock price.

"This acquisition will provide Sotheby's with the opportunity to accelerate the successful program of growth initiatives of the past several years in a more flexible private environment," Sotheby's CEO Tad Smith said in a written statement.


Sotheby's, founded in London in 1744, is the oldest company traded on the New York Stock Exchange, where it has been listed for 31 years.

The company presents auctions in 10 salesrooms worldwide, including one in Toronto that has operated since 1967 and was its first outside of London. Last year the company's net income totalled $108.6 million, or $2.09 per share, on revenue of $1.04 billion. Adjusted profit totalled $128.9 million, or $2.48 per share.

The deal has been approved by Sotheby's board and is expected to close in the fourth quarter. It's subject to shareholder approval and regulatory clearance.

Shares of Sotheby's jumped $20.39, or 57.6 per cent, to $55.78 in Monday morning trading. Before Monday the stock was down 11 per cent in the year to date.