Life just got a little easier for Alfred Taubman, the Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) tycoon who owns a controlling stake in Sotheby's. Taubman, 75, has chipped in $156 million to help pay the auction house's share of a $512 million fine to settle civil charges of price-fixing with British rival Christie's. The art collector and ex-Sotheby's chairman, who resigned in February when the scandal broke, will also pay $30 million to settle separate shareholder suits.
Although a criminal antitrust probe by the Justice Dept. is continuing, a Taubman spokesman says rumors that he will sell his entire stake are premature and that "he just wants to do the right thing and preserve the value of this company." Good thing, since his 13.2 million special voting shares--23% of the company and 63% voting control--soared on news of the deal. His investment is now worth more than $310 million.
Taubman bought control of Sotheby's 17 years ago for $137 million. The spokesman doesn't rule out a future stock sale, but with investors now bidding up the shares, Taubman can afford to wait.