Issue #241  5/28/2018
Bonhams Auction House May Be up for Sale Again

By Alex Novak

Bonhams New York City Auction Facility.
Bonhams New York City Auction Facility.

The British-owned auction house Bonhams may be sold, according to a news report in The London Sunday Times. The 225-year old auction house is controlled by chairman Robert Brooks, a former motor racing driver, and the Dutch Louwmans family, one of the largest automotive distributors in Europe.

The financial advisory group NM Rothschild has reportedly been selected to work on the possible sale. We reported similar activity nearly four years ago in this newsletter, when it was rumored that Poly Culture was set to buy the company. 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. The board of Bonhams reportedly decided against the sale then.

Brooks bought Bonhams in 2001, merging the auction house with his own business. Since then, the auction house has undergone a series of other mergers, acquisitions and takeovers and now includes nine salesrooms in London, New York, Hong Kong, Edinburgh, Los Angeles and Sydney, among other places. In 2013, the auction house's London headquarters underwent a £30-million renovation.

The potential sale once again comes after an uptick in revenue. Last year the firm made £4.8 million profit, up from £1.9 million in 2016, according to UK's Companies House.

Novak has over 47 years experience in the photography-collecting arena. He is a long-time member and formally board member of the Daguerreian Society, and, when it was still functioning, he was a member of the American Photographic Historical Society (APHS). He organized the 2016 19th-century Photography Show and Conference for the Daguerreian Society. He is also a long-time member of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers, or AIPAD. Novak has been a member of the board of the nonprofit Photo Review, which publishes both the Photo Review and the Photograph Collector, and is currently on the Photo Review's advisory board. He was a founding member of the Getty Museum Photography Council. He is author of French 19th-Century Master Photographers: Life into Art.

Novak has had photography articles and columns published in several newspapers, the American Photographic Historical Society newsletter, the Photograph Collector and the Daguerreian Society newsletter. He writes and publishes the E-Photo Newsletter, the largest circulation newsletter in the field. Novak is also president and owner of Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, a private photography dealer, which sells by appointment and has sold at exhibit shows, such as AIPAD New York and Miami, Art Chicago, Classic Photography LA, Photo LA, Paris Photo, The 19th-century Photography Show, Art Miami, etc.