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Meyer leaves Sotheby chief auctioneer post as pressure from Loeb, investors heats up

(Credit: Reuters) Two people stare at a Sotheby's collection. Sotheby's collection
November 23
12:26 AM 2013

Sotheby's chief auctioneer Tobias Meyer was reportedly leaving the auction house on Friday. Meyer's departure was off, considering that Sotheby's recorded its highest sale ever in its history as an auction house. Meyer is the global head of contemporary art at Sotheby's.

Sotheby's Chief Executive Officer Bill Ruprecht said in a statement that Meyer's departure was agreed on a premise that his contract with the auction house was expiring soon. "Tobias Meyer is a respected figure and has been at the center of signature moments in Sotheby's history for more than 20 years and we are grateful for all of his contributions," Ruprecht added.

Meyer lead the auction of Andy Warhol's "Silver Car Crash," which fetched USD104.5 million for Sotheby's last week. This pushed the auction house' sale at USD380 million, its best ever. However, Sotheby's record lagged behind rival Christie's, which also recorded USD691.5 million in the same period when it auctioned off a Francis Bacon painting.

Sotheby's released a statement purportedly coming from Meyer, which read, "I will always cherish my time at Sotheby's and look forward to the next chapter in my career."

Sotheby's had been feeling the heat from investors, especially from Daniel Loeb's Third Point, which is the auction house' largest shareholder. In October, Loeb penned a letter addressed to Ruprecht. The letter contain Loeb's criticism about Sotheby's auction, private sales and Internet sales approaches. Loeb also highlighted Sotheby's massive expenditures. Loeb had offered to join the auction house' board and suggested that Ruprecht should be replaced. Sotheby's as a reaction, adopted a poison pill strategy, or a move used by companies to reduce the chances of a hostile takeover.

when asked by Reuters for a comment about Meyer's departure, a spokeswoman for the hedge fund manager had not returned the news agency's request immediately for a comment.

Sotheby's slipped about 1% on the bourse Friday, closing at USD52.51 per share. Overall however, the auction house' stocks managed a 55% increase this year, largely credited to an increase in art collectors investing and selling off masterpieces and the arrival of activist investors like Loeb.

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