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Geoffrey Smith, new chairman of Sotheby’s Australia
The saga of Tim Goodman and Sotheby’s Australia is long and complex and I covered it when it happened; but to sum up, at the end of 2009 he was the head of Bonhams’ Australian arm, Bonhams and Goodman. He shocked the auction world, however, by simultaneously acquiring rights to Sotheby’s name in Australia. For about three weeks, he somehow controlled both, before the relationship with Bonhams largely dissolved. Bonhams went on to rebuild from the ground up as Bonhams Australia, while Goodman’s Second East Auction Holdings Ltd. ran Sotheby’s Australia.
Now, however, he’s left the building. Goodman told The Australian Financial Review (subscription required) that bad debt, high costs and poor auction results left First East in an untenable financial situation. Bizarrely, Bonhams still controls a 9.2 percent stake in SEAH, and there was, understandably, considerable bad blood there, which Goodman says prevented him from recapitalizing, so he organized a buyout. Sotheby’s Australia Art Department head Geoffrey Smith will be the new chairman, and with his partner Gary Singer (a former deputy lord mayor of Melbourne and Sotheby’s chief executive) owns 40 percent of the new company. SEAH principals Sam Cullen, Malini Shanthikumar and John Mowbray will comprise the rest of the directorship of Sotheby’s Australia. Sotheby’s Australia held several auctions of collector cars in 2010.
But there’s more. Through his First East Auction Holdings Ltd., Goodman still owns a majority share of Australia’s Leonard Joel art auction house, which was the most profitable auction house in Australia in 2010. “As of today, Leonard Joel is not for sale but FEAHL is considering options,” he said in The Australian. Bonhams is believed to be among six parties interested, having just returned to fine art sales in Australia after a year’s absence.
The Australian auction market could use some stability, as several smaller auctions have folded or gone on hiatus in the last 18 months. An abbreviated version of this item will appear in the May issue of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.