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Auction house Sotheby's bought by French telecoms billionaire for $3.7bn

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK
Barry Flanagan's 'Acrobats' part of the Modern & Post-War British Art sales at Sotheby's in London, England. Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images for Sotheby's

French billionaire Patrick Drahi has sealed a deal to buy Sotheby’s — one of world's largest brokers of fine and decorative art, jewellery, real estate, and collectibles — for $3.7bn (£2.9bn).

The deal will mean Sotheby’s (BID) will return to private ownership after being on New York stock market for over three decades.

Sotheby’s has faced cost-cutting and pressure from hedge fund investors Dan Loeb and Mick McGuire ever since the financial crisis of 2008 put luxury companies into jeopardy.

Drahi is one of the richest people in the world, worth over $9bn, according to Forbes’ calculations.

Patrick Drahi, president of french telecom group Altice at the inauguration of the Drahi-X Novation Center, dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation, at the Ecole Polytechnique, in Palaiseau, near Paris. Photo: Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images

He moved to France aged 15 and started his career at Philips. He founded publicly-traded telecoms multi-national Altice NV and owns a 60% stake in the group.

Over the past six years, he established himself as a major telecoms entrepreneur by buying France's second-biggest mobile phone operator SFR, Portugal Telecom, and acquiring US cable companies.

“Patrick Drahi is one of the most well-regarded entrepreneurs in the world, and on behalf of everyone at Sotheby’s, I want to welcome him to the family,” said Tad Smith, CEO Sotheby’s in a statement.

“Known for his commitment to innovation and ingenuity, Patrick founded and leads some of the most successful telecommunications, media and digital companies in the world. He has a long-term view and shares our brand vision for great client service and employing innovation to enhance the value of the company for clients and employees.

“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. It positions us very well for our future and I strongly believe that the company will be in excellent hands for decades to come with Patrick as our owner.”