Sotheby’s Is Making Major Changes to Its Executive Leadership in the Wake of Patrick Drahi’s Acquisition

Drahi has replaced CFO Mike Goss and executive vice president John Cahill with the CEO of his family office.

A sketch for the expanded Sotheby's New York headquarters. Photo: Spencer Platt/Newsmakers.

Sotheby’s new owner Patrick Drahi is wasting no time bringing his allies into the auction house. Mere days after Sotheby’s sale to BidFair USA, a company entirely owned by the French-Israeli telecom magnate, was completed on Thursday, news has surfaced that both CFO Mike Goss and executive vice president and chief commercial officer John Cahill are leaving the company. In their place, Jean-Luc Berrebi—who is currently the CEO of Drahi’s family office—will take over as CFO.

News of Goss’s departure first surfaced in a regulatory filing made last week in connection with finalization of the $3.7 billion acquisition. Berrebi, his replacement, previously worked to expand Drahi’s business in Israel and spent four years as the CFO of HOT, Israel’s largest cable operator. Before that, he was a partner at the accounting firm Deloitte for 12 years.

Patrick Drahi, president of french telecom group Altice at the inauguration of the Drahi-X Novation Center, at the Ecole Polytechnique. (Photo by Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images)

Patrick Drahi, president of French telecom group Altice at the Ecole Polytechnique. Photo by Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images.

The departure of Cahill, a seasoned attorney specializing in art law who formerly ran his own firm, is perhaps more surprising. Cahill joined Sotheby’s in early 2019 as one of two people hired to fill the position of former COO Adam Chinn, known as a consummate and aggressive dealmaker.

In an email to staff today announcing the staff changes, CEO Tad Smith suggested a further organizational reshuffling: “Jean-Luc will be taking the role of Chief Financial Officer, reporting to me, serving as global CFO and overseeing both Sotheby’s Financial Services and our deal-making. As a result, Mike Goss and John Cahill will be leaving,” he wrote.

Asked for comment, a Sotheby’s representative noted that Berrebi will be handling both Goss and Cahill’s former responsibilities. Ken Citron, the other hire made to replace Chinn, remains in his position as executive vice president of operations and chief transformation officer.

“Hopefully we will be able to keep Mike [Goss] close as a client and a friend for years to come,” Smith wrote in the staff email. Goss, who formerly worked for Bain Capital, leaves with a payout worth roughly $6.5 million based on his share ownership, according to regulatory filings.

Under the terms of the deal, Sotheby’s shareholders each received $57 in cash for each share of Sotheby’s common stock. The total cash payout to stockholders amounted to around $2.58 billion, according to the filings—including $28 million for Smith, the CEO.

In the wake of the latest news, many Sotheby’s employees are still wondering exactly what the acquisition by Drahi—who has a reputation for aggressive cost-cutting and using leverage to buy undervalued assets—will mean for them.

But they may soon find out more. In an email to staff, Smith wrote that Drahi will be in New York this week to meet the team and review the business and industry at large. Next, he and Drahi are heading to Sotheby’s offices in London, Paris, and Geneva before going to Tel Aviv. Drahi “has indicated that he would like to visit every office,” Smith wrote, “and based on his infectious energy, I have no doubt that will happen!”

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