Issue #244  9/25/2018
Bonhams Auction House Sold to Private Equity Firm

By Alex Novak

Bonhams new headquarters in London.
Bonhams new headquarters in London.

Epiris, a private equity firm based in London, has bought 225-year-old auction house, Bonhams. Terms of the deal were not publicly disclosed.

We have been reporting on the potential sale of Bonhams for quite some time, mostly recently at the end of May when we noted that it was up for sale again. Four years earlier we reported on the near-sale to Chinese company, Poly Group, which apparently was rejected by the Bonhams' board then.

Bonhams has been active in the photography area, holding such auctions in London, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, although it also has offices in Hong Kong Edinburgh, Paris and Sydney. It is one of the largest auctioneers of fine arts, antiques, wine and spirits, automobiles and jewelry. Last year Bonhams sold more than 50,000 lots, generating more than £450 million ($578.2 million) of hammer sales.

Bonhams' CEO Matthew Girling and CFO Jonathan Fairhurst will remain on board in their current positions, while former Sotheby’s chief operating officer Bruno Vinciguerra will join the boardroom as executive chairman.

Epiris, based in London, specializes in buyout investments that target control positions in U.K.-based businesses with an enterprise value of up to £500 million.

Novak has over 45 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. 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 at exhibit shows, such as AIPAD New York and Miami, Art Chicago, Classic Photography LA, Photo LA, Paris Photo, The 19th-century Photography Show, etc.