May 21, 2018

Bonhams has hired bank NM Rothschild to explore a potential sale of the auction house.

The Times of London reported the 225-year-old auction house has asked the international bank to line up potential suitors for Bonhams. The business is currently owned by the Dutch car import kingpin Evert Louwman, along with the Robert Brooks, a former Christie’s director who is now the Bonhams chairman. The move doesn’t necessarily mean that the auction house will go through with a sale, however. In 2014, Bonhams hired the Greenhill advisory firm to look into a potential sale, and received an offer from Poly Culture, one of the largest auction houses in China, for a price in the hundreds of millions of pounds, according to a story on the British financial site This is Money. There was also interest from the firms Bain Capital, CVC Capital and Bridgepoint—and yet, the board decided not to sell.
Bonhams—which has its main sales rooms in New York, London and Hong Kong—may not be as well known as the market leaders Christie’s and Sotheby’s, but in 2017 the house had £106.6 million in sales, according to the Times. Last week, a rare bottle of whiskey sold at Bonhams Hong Kong for a record price of $1.1 million.