• Compensation for 2015 includes $17.9 million in stock awards
  • Shares declined 39% in his first nine months on the job

Sotheby’s Chief Executive Officer Tad Smith received a pay package worth $20 million in 2015, his first year leading the company.

Smith, who started on March 31, 2015, received a salary of $1.06 million, a sign-on bonus of $1.1 million and a stock award valued at $16.5 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday. He also accepted a $1.4 million stock award in place of an annual cash bonus.

Tad Smith
Tad Smith
Source: Sotheby’s via Bloomberg

Since arriving from Madison Square Garden, Smith sought to turn around the auction house amid pressure from hedge fund manager Dan Loeb, Sotheby’s largest shareholder. Smith has replaced key executives, offered staff buyouts and scrapped the dividend to buy back shares. Sotheby’s fell 39 percent in his first nine months as CEO and had the worst annual stock performance last year since 2008.

Sotheby’s is facing a weaker art market amid financial volatility and an economic slowdown in Asia. Global art sales fell 7 percent last year to $63.8 billion, according to the European Fine Art Foundation. While U.S. art sales increased to a record $27.3 billion in 2015, the Chinese market declined by 23 percent to $11.8 billion, the lowest level since 2009, according to the report.

More than half of Smith’s stock awards are tied to the company’s future share performance. For any payout to occur for that portion, the stock would need to more than double by 2020.

Last year the company took a gamble to win the collection of its former chairman, A. Alfred Taubman, by guaranteeing his estate $509 million. The collection has brought in $470 million through Feb. 24 as $33 million worth of unsold art landed in Sotheby’s inventory and commission margins fell. 

The sale’s other unexpected result is that Taubman’s son, Robert Taubman, who’s been a director since 2000, will retire from the board in May because he’s no longer considered independent, the company said. His compensation in cash and stock was $161,354 in 2015, according to the filing.

Last year Sotheby’s profit fell 63 percent to $43.7 million. Auction sales declined 3 percent to $5 billion in 2015. Sotheby’s fell 1 percent to $24.92 in New York today. The shares are down 2.3 percent Jan. 1 through yesterday.

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