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Sotheby’s Fourth-Quarter Loss Comes to $11 M. Amid High-Profile Buyouts

Sotheby's New York.COURTESY SOTHEBY'S

Sotheby’s New York.

COURTESY SOTHEBY’S

After a tumultuous year that saw high-profile auctions sputter and longtime specialists take buyouts, Sotheby’s confirmed today that it would post a loss of $11 million for the fourth quarter of 2015. Last month, in an unusual teleconference it deemed a “pre-announcement,” the auction house anticipated that the loss would be somewhere between $10 million and $19 million.

Sotheby’s also reported that there would be two more significant departures from its ranks: Alex Rotter, the global cohead of the contemporary department, and David Norman, the global cochairman of Impressionist and modern art. Rotter had been with the company for 16 years, and Norman for 31. Both took the voluntary buyouts offered to employees after the fall sales in New York.

“After a year of transition, we have a strong team with a clear mandate to build a more valuable business for shareholders and a more responsive one for new and existing clients,” Tad Smith, Sotheby’s CEO, said in the statement. “We will likely have one or more difficult quarters as we ride through the current cycle, but we are being careful on guarantees and capital commitments, watching our liquidity carefully, continuing to invest in the people and capabilities that will drive our future success, and taking the opportunity with our excess cash to repurchase shares.”

The adjusted net income for the fourth quarter of 2015 was $143 million, which Sotheby’s noted was comparable to the same quarter in 2014. The losses stem in part from repatriating foreign earnings, which resulted in a $65.7 million non-cash income tax charge and an after-tax charge of $23.6 million.

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