Published: September 3, 2002
LONDON – Bonhams, the privately owned British fine art auction house, has acquired Butterfields, US auctioneers, from eBay, Inc. The agreement includes the purchase of 100 percent of Butterfields’ stock, including Butterfields’ traditional auction business, and certain real estate occupied by Butterfields in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The acquisition extends the global brand name of Bonhams, which was founded in 1793.
With galleries in both San Francisco and Los Angeles, the new US company will continue to trade as Butterfields. The acquisition was funded entirely from Bonhams’ own resources, without recourse to external borrowing. It comes just a year after Bonhams merged with Phillips Auctioneers and now creates a global company with 800 employees and annual sales of more than $250 million.
Robert Brooks, the group chairman of Bonhams, said, “This acquisition makes Bonhams a truly global brand and positions the company in the highest league of the international market. Since it was founded in 1865, Butterfields has grown to become one of the largest and most highly respected companies in American and the auctioneer on the West Coast.
“With almost 20 separate areas of collecting covered by Butterfields sales, none of which is duplicated by our existing operations in North America, our acquisition of the company gives Bonhams a great base from which to build our business.”
Brooks said that areas in which both companies were particularly strong included Nineteenth and Twentieth Century pictures; wine; jewelry, where each company accounted for a significant percentage of market share; in Asian art, where, notably, Butterfields recently auctioned a Vietnamese bowl for $1.1 million; and arms and armor, where Bonhams sold a Colt pistol for a record £222,250 and where Butterfields leads the world market.
“We will build on these and our many other strengths and bring new levels of client service and international marketing to the business,” he added.
Laura King Pfaff, chairman of Butterfields, said, “We are excited to become a part of the distinguished Bonhams family. We look forward to continued growth in our established sales categories and welcome the opportunity to support and leverage business in the Americas.”
According to eBay, the acquisition of Butterfields in April 1999 facilitated eBay’s entry into the fine and decorative art and collectibles categories. The purchase also helped eBay reach out to a new class of buyers and sellers. In September 2000, eBay and Butterfields launched eBay’s Live Auction technology, bringing the excrdf_Descriptionent of the traditional showroom auction to Internet users.
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