A different sort of auction, as Altice’s Drahi bids $3.7bn for Sotheby’s

18 June 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Patrick Drahi, the main shareholder in Altice Europe and Altice USA, is to buy the auction house Sotheby’s for $3.7 billion.

The board of publicly quoted auction house Sotheby’s, based in New York, announced the agreement on Monday. Drahi (pictured) will buy the company for $57 a share, 61% above the company’s closing price on the previous Monday.

Drahi said: “Sotheby’s is one of the most elegant and aspirational brands in the world. As a long-time client and lifetime admirer of the company, I am acquiring Sotheby’s together with my family.” 

After a background in cable TV in Europe with Philips and Kinnevik, Drahi set up Altice in 2001 and went on to buy SFR, the French mobile operator, and Portugal Telecom; and then a number of cable operators in the US.

After what was widely regarded as over-expansion, Altice was split in June last year between two independent units, in the US and Europe, though Drahi has remained the key shareholder and a senior executive in both. Altice Europe has since sold off tower operations in France and Portugal for €2.5 billion and the Dominican Republic for €170 million, and a stake worth €1.8 billion in its French fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network.

Sotheby’s shareholders will have to approve the deal, and Drahi will have to go through regulators for final approval. Sotheby’s said the transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019.