Sotheby’s appears to be taking another step toward becoming a publicly traded company once again. The auction house has consulted investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley about an initial public offering, according to a report in Bloomberg.

The offering could take place later this year and the company may seek a value of roughly $5 billion, excluding debt, according to the report, which cited information from people familiar with the matter. The valuation of a possible listing will depend on investor appetite and market conditions.

Sotheby’s reiterated its statement from the last time Artnet News inquired about a possible IPO, in December: “We don’t comment on rumors and speculation.” 

Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

The move comes less than three years after the auction house was acquired by French-Israeli telecom magnate Patrick Drahi in a deal valued at $3.7 billion, in June 2019. Prior to Drahi taking the company private, it was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, where shares traded under the ticker symbol “BID.”

As Artnet News recently reported, Drahi, who has been dubbed the “cost killer” by the French press, stands to make an even bigger fortune from taking the company public again. 

Toward the end of last year, Sotheby’s said it sold a record $7.3 billion worth of art in 2021. The auction house surpassed its 2020 results by more than 71 percent, the company said. Auctions accounted for $6 billion; private sales achieved $1.3 billion.

Drahi was able to slash costs—straight out of his playbook—under the veil of Covid-19,” wrote Katya Kazakina. “At another time, there may have been an outcry. But in the spring of 2020, countless businesses were making similar choices to survive.”

The move could signal the start of a trend. According to a report in the Korea Herald, K Auction, one of the major auction houses in South Korea, has raised more than 5 trillion won ahead of its public offering and listing on Kosdaq (the Korean Securities Dealers Automated Quotations).

 

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