Sotheby’s has announced significant redundancies, staff hiatuses, and pay cuts as a result of the Coronavirus. They have closed all showrooms worldwide and have moved all remaining auctions online. The company was sold last year in a £3bn deal, taking the second-largest auction house in the world from public ownership to private. The company has a £1bn debt remaining which media tycoon Patrick Drahi took on to buy the auction house.
Like many businesses, Sotheby’s is adjusting to the challenging circumstances resulting from COVID-19
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has reported following a Zoom meeting online yesterday, chaired by new chief executive Charles F. Stewart. All staff in the UK and US who are not furloughed will take a 20% pay cut through 1 June, with executives including Stewart taking a further 10% salary reduction. Overtime pay and bonuses are also being temporarily stopped.
“Like many businesses, Sotheby’s is adjusting to the challenging circumstances resulting from COVID-19 and taking the necessary steps to protect our employees and the future of the company,” a Sotheby’s spokeswoman told The Art Newspaper. “We have considered every avenue including temporary compensation adjustments (including our leadership), furloughs and, regrettably, a small number of staff reductions. While we weather this period, we remain focused on supporting our clients with a variety of services and ensuring that we are well-positioned for the moment we can resume our normal business operations.”
The WSJ also reported that 200 people will be furloughed (around 12% of Sotheby’s workforce). “it is a small percentage of our global workforce, a number that would undoubtedly be higher were it not for the other cost-saving measures we are taking.” She adds: “All decisions have been made in an effort to preserve as much of our team as possible and to ensure we are well-positioned to jump back into action as soon as we are able to resume our normal business operations.”
Bonhams is also in trouble they told The Art Newspaper: “During this period, there are staff that will be furloughed. But Bonhams is committed to offering as many of the auction houses’ facilities as we can.” She adds: “We are still holding online sales, valuations, and Private Sales. For instance, last week the Motoring Department had successful sales focused on Goodwood Members’ Meeting in which motor cars that had been entered for the sale were offered by sealed bid.”
It is thought Phillips and Christies will follow
Sotheby’s announced this week that it will postpone its May sales in New York until June. This follows a similar step taken last month by Christie’s and Phillips. New dates for the auctions have not been announced. Other auction houses will combine their London and New York sales will take place at the end of June. Sotheby’s will unveil two new online day auctions: a contemporary sale and an Impressionist and Modern art sale. Bidding for both auctions will run May 4 through May 14.