Bonhams Auction House May Be Up for Sale (Again)

The auction house previously explored a sale in 2014, but ultimately decided against it.

Bonhams, London. Photo: Bonhams.

British auctioneer Bonhams may be putting itself on the auction block.

The financial advisory firm NM Rothschild has been drafted to find a buyer for the 225-year-old company, according to the Sunday Times.

Bonhams is presently owned by former race car driver and ex-Christie’s executive Robert Brooks and the Dutch Louwmans family, who operate one of the largest auto dealerships in the Netherlands. 

Brooks and the Louwmans previously considered selling the company in 2014, when they appointed the Greenhill investment bank to conduct an audit of the business. At the time, China’s largest auctioneer, Poly Culture Group, emerged as a leading potential buyer. A number of private equity firms—including Bain Capital, CVC Capital, and Bridgepoint, the parent company of Pret-a-Manger—also reportedly considered acquiring the house. But the board ultimately decided against selling the business.

When discussions about a possible sale emerged in 2014, Bonhams had reported profits of £25 million ($33.5 million) and an all-time high turnover of £127 million ($170.3 million) for the previous year. The bid, the Financial Times reported at the time, would have valued the company at “several hundred million pounds.”

This time around, Bonhams is currently enjoying another uptick in revenue, according to The Art Newspaper. The firm reportedly made $6.4 million in profit last year, up from $2.6 million in 2016.

Today, the house has nine salesrooms around the world in cities including London, New York, Hong Kong, Edinburgh, and Sydney, among others. The company’s headquarters in London recently underwent an extensive $40 million renovation.

A spokeswoman for Bonhams declined to comment on the speculation surrounding the company’s sale, and NM Rothschild did not immediately respond to artnet News’s request for comment.

Meanwhile, the company recently set a new record for the most expensive bottle of whiskey ever sold at auction—twice in one night. A 60-year-old Macallan whiskey sold for $1.01 million at the auction house’s sale in Hong Kong on Friday, followed closely behind by a bottle from 1926 that sold for $1.1 million.

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