Porter to Leave Top Christie's U.S. Post to Join Sotheby's

  • Served as chairman of Christie's Americas unit since 2009
  • Will likely take a prominent role in business development

Marc Porter, chairman of Christie’s Americas, has resigned from the auction house and will join rival Sotheby’s.

Porter will start at Sotheby’s sometime next year, according to people familiar with the matter who declined to be named because the information is private. He will probably take a prominent role in business development for the auction house, the people said.

Tad Smith, Sotheby’s chief executive officer since March, is trying to improve performance of the firm, which has seen its shares fall 38 percent this year. Sotheby’s said last month that it sold $1.1 billion of art in its semiannual auction season, its largest ever, but the stock fell on concerns about profitability. 

Smith said in a statement that Porter will serve as a senior manager. “He will take on a role that will empower him to bring his decades of global experience in fine art to bear on the needs of our most valuable clients around the world,” Smith said.

Porter’s duties will be assumed by Brook Hazelton, president of Christie’s Americas, Jussi Pylkkanen, Christie’s global president, said in a statement.

Porter, who joined Christie’s in 1990, was instrumental in winning many important collections for the company, including the estate of Elizabeth Taylor in 2011 and, in 2006, the Gustav Klimt paintings that were returned by the Austrian government to the heirs of the Bloch-Bauer family. He was appointed chairman of Christie’s Americas in 2009, and also served as international head of private sales until earlier this year.

He led the transformation of Christie’s regional departments, including of postwar and contemporary art, Asian art and jewelry, into global entities. He also was behind the unusual five-year agreement with the Andy Warhol Foundation to sell the pop artist’s lower-priced works through private sales and online auctions in addition to standard ones.

“I like these big, transformative projects,” Porter said in a telephone interview. “Sotheby’s has the best platform for whatever the next great global iteration of the art business is.”

Sotheby’s shares were down 2.7 percent to $26.93 at 12:57 p.m. in New York trading.

In recent years, Sotheby’s has been losing ground to Christie’s in postwar and contemporary sales, the largest segment of the market. Sotheby’s, which has been cutting costs, achieved the required savings through its buyout program offered to employees last month and will not have layoffs, a spokesperson said on Monday.

Porter said Sotheby’s leadership and challenges it faces were part of what drew him to the new job.

“This is when the change comes,” he said.

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