Update: Bonhams for Sale

About three weeks ago I posted on a strong rumor that London based Bonhams appeared to be entertaining offers to be purchased (click HERE for first post). That report came through the Financial Times, and they have now posted an update on the potential sale reporting there are now five finalists bidding for the 200 year old auction house. The FT reports there are several buyout groups interested including, Bain Capital, CVC Capital and Bridgepoint, as well as China's largest auction house Poly Culture.

The Financial Times reports
Bonhams, the 200-year-old auctioneer, has whittled down the number of suitors for the business to fewer than five having hoisted a for-sale sign two months ago.

Robert Brooks, chairman and joint owner alongside Dutch collector-auctioneer Evert Louwman, appointed investment bank Greenhill to conduct a strategic review after the private group hit new heights in trading in 2013.

The former motor car racer has been aiming to challenge the duopoly of Christies and Sotheby’s. The London-based auction house has no debt and has been expanding aggressively – buying Butterfields on the US west coast, opening sales rooms in Asia and building a £30m glass-fronted salesroom on Bond Street.

In March, Bonhams said its revenues had risen a fifth in the year to December to £127m with earnings before interest, tax, amortisation and depreciation of £30m in the year to December.

However, like most auctioneering groups, Bonhams is having to invest heavily in technology to build its internet business. Online bids account for about a quarter of all its bids and sites such as Ebay are trading in more than $6bn of collectables a year.

Several suitors, including buyout groups Bain Capital, CVC Capital and Bridgepoint, and Poly Culture, China’s largest auctioneering group, are understood to have expressed an interest in buying all or part of the business.

Neither Bonhams or Greenhill would comment but people close to the group said they were hoping to complete a sale by the autumn.

Bonhams, which was founded in 1793 and merged with Phillips Son & Neale in 2001, has meanwhile carved out a niche in the collectable car market and on Tuesday was appointed to sell a Ferrari 250 GTO, one of the most sought after vehicles in the world.
Another Ferrari 250 GTO set a world record when it sold for close to $40m last year. The Ferrari to be auctioned in August is expected to fetch as much as $50m, dwarfing previous records for second-hand cars including the 1954 Mercedes driven by Argentine racer Juan Manuel Fangio, which sold for £19.6m last year.

Bonham’s revenues last year were also boosted by selling the most expensive Russian painting sold at auction: the “Madonna Laboris”, by Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich, fetched £7.9m.
Source: The Financial Times

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