Sotheby’s to lay off dozens of employees in UK with further cuts planned in other locations

Sotheby’s has entered a consultation period in London as it prepares to make dozens of redundancies there, The Art Newspaper has learned. According to four anonymous sources, around 50 people are due to leave the firm in London. Further layoffs are expected at Sotheby’s New York and its European locations, but The Art Newspaper understands Sotheby’s UK workforce will be particularly affected.

Sotheby’s declined to comment on the specifics of the restructuring, including any numbers or motivations behind it. However, a spokesperson for the auction house denied rumours that it intends to sell its London headquarters, saying “there are no plans to sell the building or leave New Bond Street”.

“London is and will continue to be our largest and most important centre for sales, exhibitions and talent in Europe and our second biggest sales location in the world,” the spokesperson added.

Sotheby’s held a staff meeting in London last week in which employees were informed of the downsizing and offered redundancy packages. According to one source, among the roles being made redundant are the head of proposals covering Europe and one business director position. A number of art handler roles are also being made redundant, another source says.

According to the latest filing on Companies House, made on 19 July 2023, profits for Sotheby’s UK arm dropped 24% from 2021 to 2022, falling from £34.5m to £26.2m. The accounts cited Brexit and global instability as factors negatively impacting the art market. A Sotheby’s spokesperson at the time said the data provided on Companies House was “incomplete” and “based on a standalone entity which does not represent the financial view of our full global enterprise or even our UK business in aggregate”.

The news of Sotheby’s entering a consultation period comes after the auction house announced last month that its lending arm, Sotheby’s Financial Services (SFS), would raise $700m through an art-backed debt security offering, officially known as Sotheby’s ArtFi Master Trust, Series 2024-1 Asset-Backed Notes. A Sotheby’s spokesperson said the securitisation will allow further investment into SFS, and that it is unrelated to the auction house’s balance sheet or to debt held by its owner, the French Israeli telecoms billionaire Patrick Drahi, in connection to other business ventures. Sotheby’s has been privately owned by Drahi since 2019.