Billionaire Collector Liu Yiqian Set to Acquire Stake in Beijing Auction House

He's expanding his portfolio.

Liu Yiqian Photo: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Chinese mega-collector and investment billionaire Liu Yiqian is set to expand his equity portfolio to include Beijing Council International Auction Company, according to Forbes.

Liu’s holding company Sunline Group was an early investor in the auction house, which his business partner Dong Guoqiang founded in 2005. Now Liu is set to acquire a personal stake in the the auction house, which specializes in ancient and modern Chinese paintings and ceramics.

“Liu’s success is against the backdrop of China’s reform and opening up. He has seized every opportunity that is available to most of us,” Dong told South China Morning Post in a 2014 interview about the major collector.

The Shanghai-listed electrical appliance retailer Jiangsu Hongtu High Technology announced on Saturday that it plans to acquire 100% of Beijing Council for $415.4 million in a stock-for-stock merger, whereby it will issue new shares of the company to the auction house’s current shareholders. (Beijing Council is currently 32.8% owned by Liu’s son-in-law Chen Jia; and 32.7% owned by Dong.)

Amedeo Modigliani, Nu couché, 1917–18. Courtesy Christie's New York.

Yiqian bought Amedeo Modigliani’s, Nu couché, (1917–18), for $170.4 million at Christie’s, New York in November 2015.
Photo: Courtesy Christie’s New York.

Under the proposed merger, Jiangsu Hongtu High Technology is aiming to buy the auction house and information technology firm for 3.5 billion yuan ($541.13 million), Reuters reports. It would raise $230.8 million by issuing 46.5 million new shares to its billionaire majority shareholder Yuan Yafei, as well as Liu. The company has indicated that it is prepared to invest up to 50% of the new capital into expanding the auction house’s market share.

If regulators approve the deal, Yuan would see his 20.5% stake in Jiangsu Hongtu reduced to 19%. Meanwhile, Liu would own 3.13%; while his son-in-law would own 4.6%.

Liu Yiqian drinks from his $36.3 million Meiyintang chicken cup. Photo: courtesy Sotheby's.

Liu Yiqian drinks from his $36.3 million Meiyintang chicken cup.
Photo: courtesy Sotheby’s.

Yiqian has an estimated net worth of $3.3 billion, according to Forbes. The investor is one of China’s most prolific art collectors, and is the owner of the second most expensive artwork ever sold at auction after purchasing Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu Couché (1917-18) for $170.4 million at Christie’s New York in November 2015.

Liu and his wife Wang Wei also operate the Long Museum, a private institution with two locations in Shanghai.

The collector has a reputation for flamboyant purchases. After placing the winning bid on a Ming Dynasty cup for $36.4 million, he shocked antique aficionados by sipping tea from the ancient porcelain creation. He also reportedly paid for the Modigliani painting with his credit card in order to obtain air miles.

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