Sotheby's owner Patrick Drahi buys £2.2bn majority stake in BT

The cost-cutting French telecommunications billionaire has formed Altice UK to buy a 12.1% stake in the company

The French-Israeli media and telecom entrepreneur and art collector Patrick Drahi Courtesy of Patrick Drahi

The French-Israeli media and telecom entrepreneur and art collector Patrick Drahi Courtesy of Patrick Drahi

Altice, the telecommunications giant headed-up by the Sotheby's owner Patrick Drahi, has bought a majority 12.1% stake in BT for around £2.2bn, an announcement that caused the telecoms giant's stock price to surge by 5% this morning.

The French-Israeli billionaire, known for his cost-cutting approach, has officially stated that he "does not intend to make a takeover offer for BT" but supports BT's fibre broadband rollout programme across the UK, estimated to cost £12bn.

Altice already has set up national fibre and mobile networks in the US, France, Portugal and Israel. Altice UK, a separate company, was established by Drahi specifically in order to hold the 1.2 billion BT shares. It now outranks Deutsche Telekom, a 12% shareholder.

Drahi is no stranger to debt, with a reputation for aggressive deal-making followed by equally aggressive cost-cutting. But the Luxembourg-based company Altice has been quieter on the acquisitions front for the past two years since Drahi bought Sotheby’s for around $3.7bn in 2019, taking on $1bn of debt in the process. Four Sotheby's shareholders attempted to sue the auction house in order to block the takeover but the deal was ultimately approved.

"BT has a significant opportunity to upgrade and extend its full-fibre broadband network to bring substantial benefits to millions of households across the UK. We fully support the management's strategy to deliver on this opportunity," Drahi says in a statement. "We understand that the expansion of the broadband network is one of the UK Government's most important policy objectives and a core part of its levelling up agenda."

In response to the announcement, BT says: "We welcome all investors who recognise the long-term value of our business and the important role it plays in the UK."


We use cookies to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners who may combine it with other information that you’ve provided to them or that they’ve collected from your use of their services. Read our Cookie Policy for more information.