PARIS — Pierre Berge is closing down one house and constructing another — of a different sort. And could he have an artful revenge in mind?
Yves Saint Laurent’s couture chief said Tuesday that he plans to set up his own auction house once fashion operations wind down this summer in the wake of Saint Laurent’s retirement. Berge had made a much-publicized bid here last month to gain control of Drouot, the Paris auction house controlled by an association of 110 state-authorized auctioneers. But he withdrew his offer Tuesday in favor of a new, independent venture.
Berge could not immediately be reached for comment. A statement said only that he would set up the house with the help of unidentified auctioneers and experts.
When he launched his bid for Drouot, which conducts on average 16 public auctions a day in Paris, Berge said he wanted to build it into a force that could rival Sotheby’s and Christie’s, which until last fall were forbidden from selling in France. For more than four centuries, the state-authorized auctioneers have dominated the auction scene here. Berge was not alone in his bid for Drouot: A subsequent offer from Barclays Private Equity valued Drouot at about $61 million, reportedly about $20 million north of Berge’s bid.
In his statement, Berge described the prices being offered for Drouot as unrealistic and said he preferred not to get involved in a bidding war. In setting up his own house, he said he was “being true to the business logic that has always guided him.”
That could include revenge, which Berge admitted in an interview with WWD last month has always been one of his driving forces. After all, the owner of Christie’s is none other than Francois Pinault, who funded the Saint Laurent couture collection, but who also bought YSL and subsequently sold its Rive Gauche and beauty businesses on to Gucci Group.