Sotheby’s To Sack Dozens Of UK Employees Amid Global Restructuring

Sotheby's © Artlyst

Sotheby’s, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious auction houses, is preparing to lay off dozens of employees in the United Kingdom. The reduction is expected to affect around 50 staff members based in London. According to sources, similar layoffs could follow in New York and other European and Asian locations.

A Sotheby’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report, which indicated that the auction house had entered a “consultation period” to evaluate its financial future.

This news follows two moderately successful auction weeks at Sotheby’s—one in March in London and another in May in New York. Despite the lack of blockbuster sales, Sotheby’s leadership expressed satisfaction with the overall results.

The recent layoffs echo last year’s downsising, which saw the departure of at least ten senior employees, coinciding with the exit of four individuals involved in NFT-related sales.

Since 2019, French-Israeli businessman Patrick Drahi has privately held Sotheby’s. Rumours of potential financial restructuring have recently circulated, including speculation about a possible return to public ownership, a topic first broached in 2021.

Founded in 1744 by Samuel Baker in London, Sotheby’s has a long and distinguished history. The company’s inaugural auction comprised a library of rare books, setting the standard for the high-quality, specialised sales that have defined its operations.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, Sotheby’s expanded its portfolio to include prints, coins, and medals, establishing itself as a premier auction house. In 1864, Baker’s successor, John Wilkinson, officially renamed the firm Sotheby, Wilkinson, and Hodge, marking the beginning of its international expansion to meet the growing global demand for art and collectables.

The 20th century it brought significant growth and innovation to Sotheby’s. Opening its first international office in New York in 1955 was pivotal, solidifying its status as a global leader in the auction industry. The 1960s and 1970s saw evening sales, the expansion into contemporary art, and the creation of specialised departments to cater to diverse collector interests.

In 1988, Sotheby’s went public on the New York Stock Exchange, which provided the capital for further technological advancements and digital expansion. Embracing the internet, Sotheby’s launched its first online auctions in the early 2000s and has since continuously enhanced its digital platforms to reach a global audience.

Under the leadership of figures like Tad Smith and Charles F. Stewart, Sotheby’s has continued to break new ground, expanding into luxury goods, real estate, and financial services. This strategic diversification has allowed the auction house to maintain its competitive edge in an evolving market. The acquisition by Patrick Drahi in 2019 marked a new chapter in Sotheby’s history, enabling further investment in technology and innovation.

Sotheby’s has consistently upheld a reputation for excellence, integrity, and expertise. Its ability to handle iconic, high-value sales—from masterpieces by artists like Picasso and Monet to rare collectables and luxury goods—remains unparalleled.

Sotheby’s has significantly shaped the art market landscape, supporting museums and cultural institutions through philanthropy and partnerships while catering to the wealthiest and most discerning collectors.

Photo: © Artlyst 2024

Read More