Leadership Changes at Sotheby's

The Financial Times reports on the recent high level changes happening at Sotheby's including the departures of Henry Wynham, Chair of Sotheby's Europe, Malanie Clores a co-chair of impr/modern art and Tad Smith the CEO.

As we are aware, Sotheby's had an 11 million loss in the 4th quarter of 2015 and early results of 2016 are not promising.

The Financial Times reports
Wednesday saw the end of two eras as Henry Wyndham, departing chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, took his final sale: that of the estate of Deborah, duchess of Devonshire, last of the controversial Mitford Sisters.

Mr Wyndham’s departure after 22 years at Sotheby’s is the latest in an exodus of senior staff, coming after a string of poor high-profile auction results and a fourth-quarter loss of $11m. Full-year earnings for 2015 were $44m, down 63 per cent on 2014.

Other people leaving include Melanie Clore, who had been at the auction house for 35 years, latterly as worldwide co-chairman for impressionist and modern art and co-chair of Sotheby’s Europe (alongside Mr Wyndham), as well as Alex Rotter, global co-head of contemporary art.

Tad Smith, chief executive, who has overseen a programme of voluntary redundancies to cut headcount by 5 per cent, said that he expected “one or more difficult quarters as we ride through the current cycle”.

He said that the auction house had had “a year of transition” and that it would continue to monitor the use of guarantees given to those selling items, which can backfire if the item is sold below the level promised.

Another factor that has unsettled Sotheby’s staff is the house’s purchase of Art Agency Partners, a boutique art advisory firm, for $50m.

The firm’s co-founders, Amy Cappellazzo and Allan Schwartzman, joined Sotheby’s as co-heads of a new fine art division, which subsumed the existing impressionist and modern, and contemporary sections.

The 465 lots in the sale ranged from a lithograph of a woman with a basket of chickens on her head (estimate £10-15) and a carved pine owl (estimate £400-600) to the pre-publication edition of Brideshead Revisited which Evelyn Waugh sent to the duke and duchess for feedback. The book, dedicated by Waugh to the Devonshires, sold for £52,500 against an estimate of £15,000-£20,000.

Mr Wyndham said that the sale had been received “rapturously”, as indeed had the auctioneer, who received sustained applause from the saleroom when he took to the rostrum for the first stint of his final sale.

Sotheby’s said that those “moving on” had left the company “in the very safe hands of all the remarkable people with whom they have worked for so many years”.
Source: The Financial Times 

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