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The former chairman of the auction house, who was found guilty of a price-fixing conspiracy with Christie’s former chairman Sir Anthony Tennant, has hired investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston to explore the possible sale of his 13.2m shares.

Bernard Arnault, the boss of LVMH group that includes Phillips de Pury Luxembourg auctioneers, has been frequently named as a likely buyer of Mr Taubman’s stake, which has been estimated at $250m. But last week the French company moved to end speculation by declaring their complete lack of interest in bidding for Sotheby’s.

If a private entrepreneur does not buy Sotheby’s, it may be left to a financial institution to subsidise the loss-making auction house while they seek to revitalise a corporate image that was sullied by the price-fixing scandal. Certainly, the current ownership of Sotheby’s by someone convicted of a serious crime is not pleasing shareholders. Ron Baron, whose mutual fund owns the majority of non-voting common shares, has reportedly told investors that he wants to sell his stake.
It is still not clear whether Mr Taubman wants to sell his stock or not, and the possibility of an appeal against his conviction adds to the uncertainty of whether he could be persuaded to part with his holding if he decided not to sell. There is also the question as to whether the judge may take into account any liquid assets realised from the sale of stock when it comes to Mr Taubman’s sentencing on April 2.