Sotheby appoints Domenico De Sole as lead independent director amid pressure from activist investor
Faced by criticism from activist investor Daniel Loeb, auction house Sotheby's has appointed Domenico De Sole as the lead independent director of the company, Bloomberg reported. De Sole is the Chairman of Tom Ford International and formerly headed the fashion house Gucci. Sotheby's auctions fine arts, collectibles and antiques in the US and other countries.
Citing a statement from the auction house, the report said Sotheby's directors unanimously voted the 69-year old De Sole to the role on December 13, just barely two weeks after he joined the company's board.
The report quoted Sotheby Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer William F. Ruprecht as saying in the statement, "He brings blue chip experience in the high-end luxury space, in board leadership, and in strategic executive roles envisioning the future of elite brands."
Loeb, whose hedge fund Third Point is the largest shareholder of the auctioneer holding a 9.2% stake, had been pushing Sotheby for new leadership and improved operations, the report said. He criticized the company's executive compensation, its international business as well as its "deteriorating" competitive position and called for Ruprecht to vacate his post in October. Another activist investor, Marcato Capital Management, holds a 6.6% stake in the auction house.
With his appointment, De Sole will be succeeding Windover Development CEO Steven B. Dodge who held the position for a year. The statement said Dodge is vacating the post due to personal reasons.
De Sole transformed Gucci from a family business to a global luxury goods firm when he was at the helm of the fashion house. As Gucci President and CEO, he acquired Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen. He is also a member of the board of directors of GAP Inc and Newell Rubbermaid Inc.
As the lead independent director, De Sole will be presiding the executive sessions of non-management directors. He will act as the liaison of the Chairman and Directors and will shape the agenda for board meetings, the auction house said.