Sotheby’s Eyes Job Cuts in London, Other Offices

The auction house's U.K. headquarters would reportedly be most affected in the layoffs that are being considered.

Helena Newman, Sotheby's chairman of Europe and worldwide head of Impressionist and modern art at the rostrum in London. Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Sotheby’s is considering layoffs to improve its bottom line. The job cuts could affect as many as 50 people at its London base, according to The Art Newspaper, which first reported the news, citing four anonymous sources. The staffs in the auction house’s New York and other European offices could reportedly be affected to a lesser degree.

A source with knowledge of Sotheby’s business affairs, who requested anonymity, told Artnet that discussions about layoffs were taking place amid the marquee New York auctions earlier this month.

A Sotheby’s spokesperson told Artnet that no decisions have been made about the scale of the potential layoffs or the affected roles.

The rep said in an email that London is “and will continue to be our largest and most important center for sales, exhibitions, and talent in Europe and our second biggest sales location in the world.”

Last week, according to the TAN report, Sotheby’s held a staff meeting in London at which employees were informed of the impending job cuts. One source told the paper that director roles are being assessed as part of the planned restructuring. Another source said that an unspecified number of art-handler roles are also being made redundant.

Until five years ago, Sotheby’s was one of the few art businesses operating as a publicly traded company, meaning that it was required to provide detailed quarterly financial reports. That changed in 2019 when the company was acquired for $3.7 billion and taken private by BidFair USA, a company wholly owned by the French-Israeli collector and entrepreneur Patrick Drahi. In recent years, there has been talk of Drahi having Sotheby’s publicly listed once again.

Last month, Sotheby’s announced plans to launch a new asset-backed security by borrowing about $500 million through bonds backed by personal loans made to art collectors. The financial product is the first of its kind to be offered by an auction house. The house first initiated discussions about the initiative with investors last year, but paused the launch amid the regional banking crisis that swept the U.S. at the time.

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