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The move, which comes in the wake of the anti-trust scandal, has nothing to do with that case, insists Craig Moffett, President of sothebys.com. The decision has been made to merge the sites – in reality an assimilation of the lower value stock Amazon site within the more expensive Sotheby’s – as a result of consultations with dealers and buyers, the company say.

“It has become clearer than ever before that what matters in this business is scale,” said Mr Moffett. “By combining the two sites, we can now offer our customers a much deeper solution in a single venue; and our network of 5000 Associates (dealers with clearance to post their own stock online unvetted by Sotheby’s) will now have a clearer and simpler way to conduct business online.”

Certainly, Sotheby’s admitted that feedback from both dealers and buyers had made it clear that some found uploading onto two sites time consuming and difficult as well as confusing.

The combined site, which will be promoted from the Amazon.com Home Page, will be wholly owned by Sotheby’s who will pay Amazon according to sales performance. The change does not affect Associate Dealer contracts, say the auction house, nor will it save Sotheby’s significant revenue except in their marketing budget.

The original agreement saw Amazon investing $35m in Sotheby’s stock. Amazon also agreed to spend a similar amount buying one million of Sotheby’s non-voting class A shares as well as a warrant for $10m to buy a further one million class A shares for $100 each. Sotheby’s said that this investment package would remain unchanged but they would make multi-million dollar cash payments to Amazon for the privilege of having the one site, leaving Amazon to concentrate on their main sale site, Amazon.com. Sotheby’s said they would have spent a total of $80m on their Internet venture by the end of the year.