Issue #206  9/5/2014
Bonhams May Be Bought by Chinese Auction House
Bonhams New York City Auction Facility
Bonhams New York City Auction Facility

The Chinese auction house, Poly Culture, may soon buy Bonhams.

Bonhams, founded in 1973, is currently owned by Dutch collector Evert Louwman and chairman Robert Brooks. Over the last couple of decades, Bonhams has expanded considerably. The current owners acquired the family-owned firm of Bonhams and merged it with specialist auctioneer Brooks in 2000. Shortly after this partnership was forged, Bonhams was again expanded through the merger with Phillips Son & Neale, bringing together two of the four surviving Georgian auction houses in London. Butterfields joined the group in 2002. In 2013 the U.K. company reported 25 million pounds sterling in profits on over 481 million pounds in hammer sales.

The owners sought the help of the American firm Greenhill in order to find a buyer for the auction house. Bridgepoint and CVC Capital Partners, which were two private equity companies that were seeking to acquire Bonhams, have, apparently, dropped out of the bidding and are no longer in the running.

Reportedly, potential buyers were waiting on how the company's motorcar sales did at Quail/Pebble Beach. The auction there did very well indeed and brought a total sales figure of $108 million (£64,578,327 or €80,628,104). The record-breaking total might signal an imminent sale.

The ultimate selling price has yet to be confirmed but it is thought that it could reach several hundred million pounds sterling. Poly Culture, which is China's largest auction house, only went public on the Hong Kong stock exchange in March of this year. It was the first time a major Chinese auction house has been listed outside Mainland China. Poly Culture, based in Mainland China, is a former subsidiary of Poly Group, a Chinese government-controlled company with interests from property to arms exports.