Sotheby's snapped up by French tycoon Drahi for $3.7 billion

Billionaire Patrick Drahi agrees to buy Sotheby's in $3.7 billion deal

Billionaire Patrick Drahi agrees to buy Sotheby's in $3.7 billion deal

"Sotheby's today announced that it has signed a definitive merger agreement to be acquired by BidFair USA, an entity wholly owned by media and telecom entrepreneur as well as art collector, Patrick Drahi", the release said.

'Sotheby's shareholders are to receive $57 Per Share in a cash transaction valued at $3.7 Billion.

Its shares soared 58 percent in afternoon trading in NY on news of the offer, which represents a 61 percent increase over Sotheby's closing price on Friday.

The acquisition would turn Sotheby's into a privately owned concern after 31 years as a publicly listed company on the New York Stock Exchange.

"Sotheby's is one of the most elegant and aspirational brands in the world", Drahi said. To fund the purchase, Drahi had partnered with French bank BNP Paribas.

He is the founder and majority shareholder of the Amsterdam-listed telecoms firm Altice, which he built via a string of acquisitions of smaller companies, including landmark deals in the U.S. that led to the group's American assets being spun off into a separate company. On Tuesday, shares of Sotheby trading on the New York Stock Exchange, soared to a 11 month high.

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Born in Morocco, Drahi, 55, was trained at the selective Polytechnique school in Paris, and holds dual French and Israeli citizenship.

He said he had full confidence in Sotheby's management and did not expect any change to the company's strategy. Shareholders threatening a hostile takeover led by Dan Loeb, an American hedge fund manager, and chief executive of Third Point LLC, a New York-based hedge fund with a portfolio worth $14 billion. Notable sales past year included the record-setting auction of Marie Antoinette's jewels; the sale of the Farnese Blue, a royal-pedigreed blue that nabbed $6.7 million in May; and a diamond engagement ring from the collection of Barbara Sinatra.

"For my entire life, I have been passionate about this industry and I believe the opportunities and growth potential are significant for Sotheby's", said Drahi, who described the stories auctioneer as a "fascinating and multi-secular company" which has been "uniting people all over the world through culture and arts".

Founded in 1744 by British entrepreneur Samuel Baker, Sotheby's focused exclusively on book sales before expanding into other fields at the end of the 19th century.

Sotheby's counterpart in London, Christies, founded by James Christie in 1766, was sold to another French businessman, Francois Pinault, in the late 1980s.

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