Sotheby's Names New Department Heads, Amid Other Shake-ups

  • February 02, 2014 19:20

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Tobias Meyer, former principal auctioneer at Sotheby's, selling Edvard Munch's The Scream for $119,9 million in May 2012.

On Friday, Sotheby's named new co-heads of the contemporary art department and the Impressionist and modern art department. The appointments follow the shake-up instigated by majority shareholder Daniel Loeb who has publicly blasted Sotheby's over finances, from spending on personnel to the cost of the company's headquarters in New York and London.

Both Rotter and Westphal are veterans of Sotheby's with the former steering the auction of Andy Warhol's "Silver Car Crash" to $104 million, an artist auction record, last Novermber. Westphal launched the London branch of Sotheby's contemporary art department.

The pair's appointment follows the fall exodus of principal auctioneer Tobias Meyer, who was the face of Sotheby's and headed the contemporary art department.

Sotheby's CEO William Ruprecht also appointed  Helena Newman and Simon Shaw as Worldwide Heads of the Impressionist & Modern Art Department. In addition, Samuel Valette has been named Vice Chairman Worldwide of Private Sales for the category.  

“With global sales that grew 21% in 2013 alone, it is clear that Helena and Simon’s leadership is a successful formula for our clients and our business," said Ruprecht. "Over the course of their combined 44 years at Sotheby’s, they have helped bring to market iconic works of art spanning 100 years of art history, including Edvard Munch’s The Scream, Alberto Giacometti’s Walking Man, and Pablo Picasso’s Boy with a Pipe – each achieving prices over $100 million and establishing lasting benchmarks in the auction market."

As a publicly traded company Sotheby's has recently bowed to pressure from activist shareholders such as Loeb. Last Tuesday, the auction house said it would return $325 million to investors in 2014 "through a special dividend and share repurchase program that will force Sotheby’s to repatriate foreign cash and caused its credit rating to be slashed by S&P," reports Forbes.

Sotheby's also released a statement that it would trim $22 million in expenses, such as "professional fees, other general and administrative costs, direct costs of auction services and marketing expenses this year," but "no reductions in the workforce are planned."

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