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Sotheby’s Names De Sole Lead Director Amid Loeb Pressure

(Corrects fifth paragraph to add that Dodge will remain on the board, in story originally published Dec. 16.)

Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Sotheby’s appointed Domenico De Sole, the chairman of Tom Ford International and former head of Gucci, to the role of lead independent director as the auction house is under criticism from activist investor Daniel Loeb.

De Sole, 69, was elected in a unanimous vote by Sotheby’s directors on Dec. 13, less than two weeks after he joined the board, according to a statement today by the New York-based auctioneer.

“He brings blue chip experience in the high-end luxury space, in board leadership, and in strategic executive roles envisioning the future of elite brands,” William F. Ruprecht, Sotheby’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in the statement.

Sotheby’s is being pushed for new leadership and more efficient operations by Loeb’s Third Point LLC, whose 9.2 percent stake as of Oct. 1 makes it the largest shareholder. In October, Loeb called for Ruprecht to step down and criticized Sotheby’s executive compensation, international business and “deteriorating” competitive position. Activist investor Marcato Capital Management LLC has built a 6.6 percent stake.

De Sole, who was named to the board July 1 and started Dec. 1, succeeds Steven B. Dodge, CEO of Windover Development LLC, who held the position since it was created a year ago. Dodge is stepping down from the lead director role for personal reasons and will remain on the board, the company said in the statement.

Transforming Gucci

As president and CEO of Gucci, De Sole helped transform the company from a family business into a global luxury goods conglomerate by acquiring fashion houses Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta as well as young labels of Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen. He sits on the board of directors of GAP Inc. and Newell Rubbermaid Inc.

The position of the lead independent director was created in December 2012 when Ruprecht, the company’s CEO, was named its chairman. The director is responsible for presiding at executive sessions of the non-management directors, acting as a liaison between the chairman and directors and shaping the agenda for board meetings, Sotheby’s said.

De Sole’s appointment follows the departure of Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s worldwide head of contemporary art and an auctioneer for more than two decades; and the announcement last week that Alfredo Gangotena will be joining the company as chief marketing officer. Gangotena held a similar title at MasterCard Worldwide.

To contact the reporter on this story: Katya Kazakina in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christian Baumgaertel at

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