• Point72 has tripled holdings in auction house since September
  • Billionaire’s firm is now Sotheby’s fifth-largest shareholder

Billionaire trader and art collector Steve Cohen is on a buying spree of Sotheby’s shares.

Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management acquired 1.2 million Sotheby’s shares, bringing its total to 3.2 million valued at $86.1 million at the end of March, according to a regulatory filing Monday. That made Point72 the auction house’s fifth-largest shareholder.

Steve Cohen
Steve Cohen
Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

Since the end of September, Cohen has tripled his holding in Sotheby’s, which is struggling to revamp operations and boost profit. Since then, the shares have tumbled 13 percent. On May 9, the company said an investor may increase its stake to as much as 10 percent, fueling speculation that Sotheby’s could be acquired or taken private. Point72 held 5.5 percent of the company as of March 31.

Sotheby’s Chief Financial Officer Michael Goss said on the company’s first quarter earnings call that the investor may buy shares on the open market or through a private transaction. He declined to elaborate.

Point72, which manages Cohen’s personal wealth, was the largest buyer of shares in the past two quarters, according to regulatory filings. He didn’t own any shares as of March 31, 2015. Sotheby’s spokeswoman Lauren Gioia and Point72 spokesman Mark Herr declined to comment.

Cohen, whose net worth of $11.2 billion ranks him 92nd on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, has an art collection worth an estimated $1 billion. In 2012, he bought Pablo Picasso’s “Le Reve” for $150 million in a private transaction from casino owner Steve Wynn. Two years later, he won Alberto Giacometti’s 1950 painted-bronze sculpture “Chariot” for $101 million at Sotheby’s.

Hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb’s Third Point, Sotheby’s largest shareholder, has an 11 percent stake. Since acquiring Sotheby’s shares in 2013, it has pressured the company to improve profitability. During the first quarter, Third Point added 10,925 shares. Its total holdings were worth $178 million as of March 31.

Marcato Capital, run by Mick McGuire, a former employee of Bill Ackman’s hedge fund, is the auctioneer’s second-largest shareholder. The firm reduced its position to 5.9 million shares as of the end of March by selling 315,900 shares.

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