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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Sotheby's reviews flagging website
A Sotheby's auction room
Sotheby's has been beset by legal problems
Auction house Sotheby's is to axe further jobs, and review the future of its pioneering website, in its second shake-up this year.

The 226-year-old firm has said that a second round of restructuring will bring the number of jobs cut this year to about 300, the equivalent of one in seven posts.

Sotheby's said it will also examine the "cost structure and strategic direction" of, the online auction site which has undertaken some of the e-commerce sector's most high-profile deals.

"Following these changes we believe that we will be a stronger and more profitable organisation," chief executive William Ruprecht said.

Troubled period

The cuts follow the announcement in August of an internal review, and come nine months after an initial restructuring which Mr Ruprecht said would make Sotheby's "more competitive... and enhance profitability through the realisation of significant cost savings".

The company suffered a loss of esteem when former chief executive Diana Brooks last October pleaded guilty to price-fixing charges.

And the firm blamed a "competitive environment in the art market" when in August it reported a loss of $8.3m (5.7m) for the first half of the year.

Flagship website

Sotheby's has this year continued to slash costs at its internet operations, launched in January 2000 as the bubble neared bursting point.

Although the site has notched up a series of high-profile deals, including the $8.14m sale of a copy of the US Declaration of Independence, it has struggled to meet targets.

Internet sales for the site's first six months, swollen by the declaration of independence sale, were, at $31.0m, more than $6.0m higher than in the first half of this year.

But cost-cutting measures, including the integration of internet operations in New York, succeeded in reducing Sotheby's' outlay on the unit to $6.4m between April and June, compared with $7.8m in the first three months of the year

In the City, investors welcomed Wednesday's statement, sending shares in Sotheby's up by 112.5p to 900p in early trade.

In afternoon trade, the shares stood at 825p, up 37.5p.

The shares three weeks ago fell to 800p, their lowest level for more than five years.

See also:

16 Jul 01 | Business
Sotheby's downgraded to junk status
13 Jul 01 | Business
Auction houses merge
30 Jan 01 | Americas
Auction house cases dropped
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