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Bonhams snapped up by private equity group Epiris

Bonhams snapped up by private equity group Epiris

September 05
15:54 2018

Bonhams, the auctioneer of art, whisky, wine, motor cars and jewellery, has been bought by a private equity group as it seeks to gain market share from its rivals.

London-based private equity group Epiris announced the deal on Tuesday without disclosing financial terms.

Bruno Vinciguerra, previously chief operating officer at Sotheby’s, will join the company as executive chairman as part of the deal.

Announcing the transaction, Matthew Girling, chief executive at Bonhams, said: “We are delighted to have found a buyer that recognises the potential offered by this business and its employees. Bonhams is one of the world’s oldest auctioneers — and one of the most ambitious.”

He added: “During the past 20 years we have pursued a growth strategy that has turned the company into a truly global organisation.”

Founded in 1793, Bonhams holds more than 250 sales a year in key locations, including London, New York and Hong Kong. Last year it auctioned items worth £450m — a figure based on the price of sales under the hammer, not including the buyer’s commission — at its seven salerooms worldwide.

But it trails the two big beasts of the auction world — Christie’s and Sotheby’s — which use their market power to persuade collectors to entrust them with sales of the most sought-after artworks.

The two houses accounted for 17 of the 20 highest-priced sales in postwar and contemporary art in 2017, according to an annual art market report by research group Arts Economics. In Impressionist art, they sold 16 out of the top 20, while Bonhams made no appearance in either of the top-20 sales groups.

But while its bigger rivals have stepped back from many niche sales over the past two decades, Bonhams continues to hold auctions in 60 collecting areas, such as classic cars. In July it announced sales of £32m at its Goodwood auction, with a 1961 Aston Martin fetching £10m, a European auction record for a British car.

Scottish art, whisky and wine are other areas in which it holds an interest: it sold a 60-year-old bottle of Macallan whisky for a record-breaking HK$8.6m (£814,000) in Hong Kong this year.

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