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France

Sotheby’s going, going, gone! as French tycoon snaps up auction house

media French business mogul Patrick Drahi, head of Altice Media Group, set to acquire prestigious Sotheby's auction house REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

French business tycoon Patrick Drahi is set to acquire Sotheby’s auction house for 3.3 billion euros, the British-founded company said on Monday.

"This acquisition will provide Sotheby's with the opportunity to accelerate the successful program of growth initiatives of the past several years in a more flexible private environment," said Tad Smith, Sotheby’s CEO, said in a statement.

Drahi is already owner of the Altice group, which owns SFR telecoms, BFM television news channel, and left-leaning French paper Liberation. He owns 75 percent of Numericable, France's largest cable operator, and Portugal Telecom.

Sotheby’s said Drahi’s company BidFair USA will be paying $57 per share. The announcement boosted the art auction house’s shares some 57 percent to more than $55 when trading opened in New York on Monday – a 61 percent increase over its price at closing bell on Friday.

This deal means Sotheby’s will become private again after 31 years on the New York Stock Exchange.

"This acquisition will provide Sotheby's with the opportunity to accelerate the successful program of growth initiatives of the past several years in a more flexible private environment," said CEO Smith.

Worth 8.1 billion euros according to Forbes business magazine, Moroccan-born Drahi holds French, Israeli, and Portuguese citizenship.

"Sotheby's is one of the most elegant and aspirational brands in the world. As a longtime client and lifetime admirer of the company, I am acquiring Sotheby's together with my family," he said.

Drahi added that he was “honoured” that Sotheby’s board had indicated to shareholder that they accept his offer. After shareholder approval, the deal will be subject to regulatory approval, too, which should be finalized before the end of the fourth quarter this year.

Many see this acquisition as mirroring French billionaire Francois Pinault, who bought up a majority stake in Sotheby’s rival Christie’s in 1998.

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