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Media Mogul Patrick Drahi Buys Sotheby’s Auction House in $3.7 Billion Deal

Cynthia Littleton

Patrick Drahi, the media mogul behind Altice Europe and Altice USA, has reached a deal to buy Sotheby’s auction house in a transaction valued at $3.7 billion.

Drahi plans to take Sotheby’s private after the transaction is complete. The deal values the storied company at $57 a share, a premium of more than 50% over the company’s 30-day trading average. Altice said the enterprise value of the deal was $3.7 billion.

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Drahi has made the cash acquisition through BidFair USA, which he wholly owns. The deal is separate from his Altice holdings, though it raises the question of whether there will be interactive TV crossover potential between the Sotheby’s high-end auctions and Drahi’s TV and telecom interests in the U.S. and Europe.

Drahi said he would sell about $400 million worth of his shares in Altice USA to help finance the transaction. Drahi at present owns about 38% of Altice USA, and he controls Altice Europe. He is also a philanthropist and art collector.

Drahi said he had “full confidence” in Sotheby’s existing management team and did not anticipate making strategic changes at the auction giant, run by CEO Tad Smith and board chairman Domenico De Sole.

“I am honored that the Board of Sotheby’s has decided to recommend my offer,” Drahi said in a statement. “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. We thank Domenico and the rest of the Sotheby’s Board for its support and look forward to getting started with Tad and the wonderful members of his team to define our future.”

Based in New York, Sotheby’s has been publicly traded for the past 31 years.

“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 Smith. “It positions us very well for our future and I strongly believe that the company will be in excellent hands for decades to come with Patrick as our owner.”

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