Dan Loeb to nominate three directors to Sotheby's board

Thu Feb 27, 2014 1:42pm EST
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(Reuters) - Activist investor Daniel Loeb said on Thursday he would nominate himself and two others to the board of Sotheby's Inc (BID.N: Quote), piling pressure on the auctioneer to focus more on its competitive position and management.

Loeb, whose fund Third Point LLC is the biggest investor in Sotheby's with a 9.53 percent stake, has been pressuring the company since October to remove its chief executive and become more competitive against main rival Christie's.

Sotheby's said it had engaged in extensive talks with Third Point over the past months to avoid a proxy battle and had offered to appoint Loeb to its board.

"Sotheby's is disappointed that Third Point has chosen this path," the company said.

In a letter to Chief Executive William Ruprecht in October, Loeb called the auction house "an old master painting in desperate need of restoration."

Investment firm Marcato Capital Management, which holds a 6.7 percent stake in Sotheby's, has also been pushing the company to make changes and return $1 billion to shareholders.

Sotheby's, responding to the shareholders, said in January it would return $450 million to investors through a special dividend and a share buyback.

The company said it would also separate the capital structures of its auction and private sales business from that of its financial services business.

Loeb, in a regulatory filing on Thursday, commended Sotheby's capital return but said "much remains to be done to enhance the company's competitive position." (r.reuters.com/tyb37v)   Continued...

A video display panel is seen outside Sotheby's in London October 4, 2013. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett