A. Alfred Taubman, the self-made billionaire/developer of the modern shopping centre, who was jailed for commission fixing and collusion with Christie’s, when he was Chairman of Sotheby’s Auctioneers, has died in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, age 91.
Taubman was a college dropout who built a fortune building shopping malls across America. He bought the ailing, privately held Sotheby’s Auctioneers in 1983 for $124 million dollars, taking the company public on the NY stock exchange. Over the next five years, Taubman transformed Sotheby’s, putting his protégé Diana D. Brooks in the job of CEO. By 1989, Sotheby’s overtook arch-rival Christie’s with year end results of $2.9 billion to Christie’s $2.1 billion.
All came to an end when the global art market suddenly dropped in 1990 and both Christie’s and Sotheby’s colluded in a price-fixing scheme, involving the commissions charged to buyers and vendors. They also agreed to stop poaching exclusive lists of special clients from one another. Taubman was jailed for a year and a day, age 77. He was also fined $7.7m. Brooks his CEO-protégée escaped jail by testifying against her boss, who was charged for coming up with the scheme, along with fellow chairman Sir Anthony Tennant of Christie’s, also indicted but as he was in London steered clear of the American justice system. Sotheby’s and Christie’s were fined over $250m in a class action and were forced to pay back millions in commissions to buyers and sellers.