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Sotheby’s Lays Off Staff Amid Restructuring

by Mostafa Heddaya on July 17, 2014

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Sotheby’s New York (image via Wikimedia)

Sotheby’s auction house underwent a round of layoffs today as part of an internal restructuring, CNBC reported. The cuts, which come three days after the company announced a major partnership with eBay, were announced in a companywide meeting at 9am ET this morning, Hyperallergic has learned.

In a statement to CNBC, Sotheby’s declined to offer specific figures on the layoffs, giving only the following rationale:

As part of a long-range planning process begun earlier this year, Sotheby’s has identified areas for growth and additional investment. To capture these opportunities in an ever-evolving business, the company has decided to reallocate staff and resources. Some departments will be expanded and new positions created, while other areas will see modest staff reductions by the end of the year. Our goal is to build on the strong results we have been achieving, continue to increase our ability to compete in the marketplace, and better serve our clients.

The auction house’s management has faced pressure from shareholder and activist hedge fund manager Dan Loeb, who called for a “fundamental corporate restructuring” and successfully appointed three directors to Sotheby’s board in May. Loeb’s $14 billion fund, Third Point LLC, holds roughly 10% of Sotheby’s stock, and began agitating for reform at the company in October 2013.

In 2011, Sotheby’s underwent a 10-month lockout of its unionized art handlers. It is unclear if any union employees are affected by the present reductions.

Hyperallergic was not immediately able to reach representatives from Sotheby’s for further comment.

Update, 7/18 10:04am: A Sotheby’s spokesperson has provided Hyperallergic with a statement identical to the one provided to CNBC and quoted above, with the addition of the following line:

Andrew Gully, Worldwide Director of Communications said, “We have identified areas for review but this process is underway and we cannot provide specific numbers of employees or departments affected at this stage.”

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