Sotheby’s has been trying to raise the bar since Dan Loeb joined the board of the NYSE-listed company.

On Monday 26 January, William Ruprecht, who still has a couple of weeks to go as CEO, announced that Sotheby’s would be increasing its buyer premiums from 1 February.

The big international auction houses traditionally increase their fees in the third quarter, or that has been the norm over the past two years. They generally avoid altering premiums to not upset collectors, but happily increase their thresholds, as this is perceived as being a little less painful.

It was the timing that changed last week, along with the natural order of things, since Christie’s usually fires the start gun, with Sotheby’s, Phillips, and Bonham’s following in their footsteps.

From next month, art lovers who find their dream painting in a Sotheby’s sale, will have to pay premiums of 25% on lots going under the hammer for less than $200,000, 20% for lots between $200,000 and $3 million, and 12% for lots that sell for over $3 million*.

Bill Ruprecht justified the increase by saying, “This will improve Sotheby’s revenue [and] strengthen the company’s profit margins.” Yes, at their clients’ expense…

*Sotheby’s previous thresholds were: 25% for works under $100,000, 20% for works between $100,000 and $2 million, and 12% for works over $2 million.


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