Activist investor Loeb ups stake in Sotheby’s

Elizabeth Fournier
SHARES in Sotheby’s shot up during afternoon trading in the US yesterday, after its was revealed that activist investor Dan Loeb’s Third Point hedge fund had upped its stake in the auction house.

Third Point spent $156.7m (£101m) to take its stake in Sotheby’s to 5.7 per cent, according to a regulatory filing made in New York yesterday. It previously held 3.7 per cent of the firm’s shares.

The filing also implied that Loeb will bring his activist investor credentials to the table at Sotheby’s, saying Third Point “intend(s) to engage in a dialogue with members of the [Sotheby’s] board or management” which “may relate to potential changes of strategy and leadership”.

Loeb has been leading a high-profile campaign against entertainment giant Sony – of which Third Point owns close to seven per cent – pushing the Japanese firm to spin off part of its entertainment division to fund its electronics arm.

Sony has so far resisted Loeb’s calls for change.

Earlier this month the 270-year-old auction house, led by William Ruprecht, reported net income for its second quarter was up seven per cent to $91.7m, missing analysts’ expectations.

Revenue edged up to $304.9m from $303.9m a year ago.

Sotheby’s website shows BlackRock Fund Advisors as its biggest shareholder with 6.98 per cent of shares, but has not been updated to include activist fund Marcato Capital, which revealed it had built a 6.6 per cent stake in the firm at the end of last month. The auction house did not comment last night.

Shares in Sotheby’s, which have risen more than 36 per cent since the start of the year, shot up yesterday afternoon – climbing to almost $48 before closing 2.99 per cent higher on the day at $47.21.

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