When it was announced that Sotheby’s was to be acquired by French telecom billionaire Patrick Drahi and taken private, there was no doubt that change was coming. The company came off the stock market—where for the last 30 years it traded under the ticker name BID—and on Monday, the auction house announced the appointment of a new CEO, Charles F. Stewart. Stewart will replace Tad Smith, who has served as Sotheby’s CEO since 2015. Smith will transition to a new role as a senior advisor to Stewart and a shareholder of the company.
Stewart’s most recent role was as co-president and chief financial officer of the cable television provider Altice USA, the U.S. branch of Drahi’s Netherlands-based telecommunications company Altice. In 2017, Stewart helped lead Altice USA to a successful, $2.1-billion IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. Before his time at Altice USA, Stewart spent more than two decades in the finance sector, where he served as CEO of the international bank Itau BBA International, and as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley.
In a statement, Drahi said:
Charlie is a talented executive who brings years of international experience to Sotheby’s. I have known him for many years and have been impressed by his appetite for innovation, taking smart risks, and challenging the status quo. He has a proven record of driving growth and is ideally positioned to create value for Sotheby’s clients and our outstanding team.
Throughout his roughly four-year tenure as the auction house’s CEO, Smith saw the company through good and bad times. He joined Sotheby’s in March 2015 after serving as president and CEO of the Madison Square Garden Company. Smith helped make Sotheby’s a desirable acquisition target by, among other things, acquiring other businesses. Under Smith’s tenure, Sotheby’s notably acquired Art Agency Partners for $50 million in 2016.
Of Smith, Drahi stated:
I also want to thank Tad Smith for his leadership over the past four and a half years. Sotheby’s reached a new level of success during his tenure and I am delighted we will continue to benefit from his experience in an advisory capacity.
Under the terms of Drahi’s acquisition deal, Sotheby’s shareholders received $57 in cash for every share of Sotheby’s common stock, amounting to a $2.58 billion payout. According to artnet News, this payout amounted to $28 million for the now-former CEO Smith.