Exodus Continues as David Norman and Alex Rotter Leave Sotheby’s

Is the auction house hemorrhaging senior staff?

Alex Rotter and David Norman.Photos: Patrick McMullan.
Alex Rotter and David Norman.
Photos: Patrick McMullan.

Two more high-level Sotheby’s staffers are departing the New York auction house, according to a report at Bloomberg Business. David Norman, vice chairman of Sotheby’s Americas and co-chairman of Impressionist and modern art worldwide, and Alex Rotter, global co-head of the contemporary art department, are veterans of the auction house, having served there for 31 years and 16 years, respectively.

Rotter will leave at the end of the month, while Norman will stay on through the New York May auctions. Both told Bloomberg that they would pursue other opportunities, but did not provide details.

The news closely follows the house’s acquisition last month of the consulting firm Art Agency, Partners (AAP), for $50 million—plus additional performance incentive costs of up to $35 million. Ex-Christie’s contemporary head Amy Cappellazzo and high-powered advisor Allan Schwartzman formed AAP in 2014.

This month also saw the exit of Melanie Clore, the house’s European chairman and worldwide co-chairman of Impressionist and modern art, who announced her departure after some thirty-five years.

In November, the company offered buyouts to a number of employees in a cost-cutting measure, noting in an email sent to staff and obtained by Bloomberg that layoffs would result if an insufficient number of employees chose buyouts. Those calling it quits since then include longtime Sotheby’s executive and finance expert Mitchell Zuckerman; Polly Sartori, head of 19th-century European art in New York; and Anthony Grant, Aileen Agopian, and Scott Nussbaum from the New York contemporary art department.

Among other tough news for the house was its loss of some $12 million on the November sale of the collection of its late former chairman, A. Alfred Taubman. The house had guaranteed Taubman’s heirs the hefty sum of half a billion dollars on the collection, which included major artists such as Amedeo ModiglianiPablo Picasso, Willem de Kooning, and Mark Rothko, but resulted in disappointing totals.

A year ago, the house named former Madison Square Garden CEO Tad Smith its new chief executive after a nasty battle with activist investor Daniel Loeb over the direction of the company, resulting in Loeb’s joining the board along with former investment banker Olivier Reza and turnaround specialist Harry Wilson, both nominated by Loeb.

artnet News reached out to Norman and Rotter for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.


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