The Private Equity Firm Behind Bonhams Is Reportedly Exploring a Sale of the Auction House for $1 Billion
In 2022, Bonhams's saw a 27 percent increase in its annual revenue.
Five years after private equity firm Epiris acquired and reinvigorated Bonhams auction house, it is now looking to cash in on its investment. The London-based firm is reportedly moving forward with a possible sale of the 230-year-old British house and seeking a valuation of roughly $1 billion, according to Bloomberg.
Epiris declined to comment on the matter, as did J.P. Morgan, which is said to be advising on a possible sale (Bonhams referred our inquiry to Epiris).
The report cited people familiar with the matter, but said deliberations are in the early stages and there’s no guarantee the talks will result in a transaction.
Bonhams’s annual revenue topped $1 billion for the first time last year, a 27 percent increase from the $816 million reported in 2021. The house now has 14 salerooms around the world, with 34 offices and more than 60 departments.
Auction veteran and current global CEO Bruno Vinciguerra, spent nine years at Sotheby’s as COO before joining Bonhams when Epiris acquired it in 2018.
As Artnet News reported in a 2022 profile, the house’s recent business moves are less a case of reinventing the wheel and more about accelerating many of the major trends already at play in the auction realm. This has included enhancing its digital capabilities to encourage growth in online bidding and, most notably, by dramatically expanding its physical geographical footprint around the world.
In 2022, this involved a series of rapid-fire acquisitions of smaller but esteemed regional auction houses around the world, ranging from Bukowskis in Stockholm, Sweden in January, to Skinner in Boston, Massachusetts in March. Bonhams also acquired Copenhagen-based Bruun Rasmussuem in March, and in June snapped up Paris house Cornette de Saint Cyr. A lot of small business quickly adds up—the combined 2021 turnover for the four houses cumulatively was more than $300 million, Bonhams told Artnet News at the time.
The house boasts more departments than any other auction house and is continuously selling at all price points—from $500 to $10 million paintings and collectibles. Its core market is for objects under $1 million, and it has said it gives equal attention to works from $500 and up, with specific departments for approachable collecting categories such as prints and multiples, books and manuscripts, and design. However, it has also notched sales of up to $10 million for works by Picasso, René Magritte, and rare collectibles such as the $6 million brought in by the gun that killed Billy the Kid.
According to Bloomberg, London-based Epiris targets companies valued at $90 million to $600 million (£75 million to £500 million) including debt. Since 2011, it has invested $2.3 billion (£1.9 billion) backing companies such as holiday park operator Parkdean Resorts and information services firm Axios, sourcing its website for the data.
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