Dozens of Sotheby’s staff take buyout option

The voluntary programme will cost the auction house around $40m after shaky sale season

A Securities and Exchange Commission filing yesterday revealed that around 5% of Sotheby’s 1,600-strong workforce will leave the company under a recently announced buyout programme. “Sotheby’s expects to recognise a charge of approximately $40m in the fourth quarter of 2015 as a result,” the document states.

The buyouts were announced 13 November, following an auction season that saw big numbers but unclear profits. On a conference call to investors days before the announcement, Sotheby’s chief executive Tad Smith said it was still uncertain whether the sale of works from the collection of A. Alfred Taubman, guaranteed at $515m, would be profitable for the company, though another sale is planned for January. At the time of that call, Sotheby’s stock had fallen 33% over the year.

An earlier filing stated that if the voluntary buyouts did not yield the desired results, the auction house might resort to involuntary layoffs. A Sotheby’s spokesman today said: “We have no plan to pursue an involuntary staff reduction programme”.