Byline: Katherine Weisman / with contributions from Sarah Raper

PARIS – Artemis, the family holding company of French tycoon Francois Pinault, has signed an agreement to acquire Piasa, France’s third-largest auction house.
The announcement comes just 10 days after Pinault rival Bernard Arnault said that his LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton had agreed to buy Etude Tajan, France’s biggest auctioneer. Last year, Arnault bought Phillips auction house in London.
The close of the Artemis-Piasa transaction is subject to the French government’s decision to reform France’s monopolistic auction market.
The deal would give Piasa the funds necessary to continue development and improve client service. Piasa has estimated sales of $43 million.
This is not Pinault’s first venture into the auction business. In 1998, Pinault acquired Christie’s International plc for approximately $1.2 billion.
Auction gossip has been swirling around Pinault and Arnault in recent weeks, prompted not only by the government’s move toward fully deregulating the auction market but also by the Sotheby’s scandal in the U.S. over price fixing.
Christie’s agreed to cooperate with U.S. Justice Department investigators on the matter, earning the house conditional immunity. But the house is now facing numerous civil lawsuits — as is Sotheby’s — over price-fixing issues. A spokeswoman for Pinault said she was unaware of such lawsuits and could not comment.
And, as the auction scandal evolves, Arnault’s name has come up as a possible bidder for Sotheby’s, among others including and eBay. At the Celine rtw show Tuesday night, Arnault declined to comment on whether he was interested in Sotheby’s.

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