Say Goodbye to the Rug Guy, Sotheby’s CEO William Ruprecht Pushed Out

The board is conducting a search for a new CEO.

Sotheby's CEO William Ruprecht Photo: MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images

Bill Ruprecht, CEO of Sotheby’s will step down by “mutual agreement” with the board.
Photo: Shaun Mader/

Sotheby’s announced yesterday afternoon (November 20) that longtime CEO Bill Ruprecht will step down by mutual agreement with the board as it conducts a search for a new CEO. Ruprecht will continue as CEO and president of the company until his successor is found. News comes on the heels of a lengthy proxy battle with activist investor Dan Loeb who eventually won three seats on the board including one for himself (See “Dan Loeb Triumphs, Will Join Sotheby’s Board“). It also follows days in which large hedge funds have been investing heavily in the embattled Sotheby’s stock. Insider trading? Sounds a lot like somebody knew the announcement was coming.

We reached out to Dan Loeb at his Third Point office but a representative said there was no comment. At the height of their proxy battle, Loeb famously likened Sotheby’s to “an Old Master painting in desperate need of restoration.” (See “Daniel Loeb Presses Case Against Sotheby’s“). According to a report in Forbes, Sotheby’s shares surged over 7 percent in after-hours trading Thursday. According to a lengthy report that appeared in New York magazine this past March, Leob’s contemporary collecting tastes run to Jeff Koons (he bought a turquoise egg from Gagosian in the 2000s) and to Richard Prince, whose work he has decorated Third Point’s office with. He also reportedly owns Martin Kippenberger’s scultpure of a crucified frog and has amassed a large portfolio of Kippenberger’s work.

In a press release, Sotheby’s said it has retained executive search firm Spencer Stuart to assist in the search for a new CEO and has formed a search committee that is being led by Domenico De Sole, a Sotheby’s board member and former Gucci executive. De Sole said that the board is “focused on ensuring a smooth transition that will facilitate Sotheby’s continued success.”

William Ruprecht, 58, joined Sotheby’s in 1980. He was appointed president and CEO of Sotheby’s in 2000 and was elected chairman of the board in 2012. He served as executive vice president and managing director of Sotheby’s North and South America from 1994 until 2000. From 1992 to 1994 he was director of marketing for Sotheby’s worldwide and oversaw several specialist departments. From 1986 to 1992, he served as director of marketing for Sotheby’s.

In a statement, Ruprecht said, “I have had the privilege of working with so many talented and dedicated colleagues at Sotheby’s, and I am proud of all that we have accomplished together. This is an exciting time for this great company. I will do all I can to contribute to a smooth leadership transition.”

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