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The move comes after the company pleaded guilty to charges of price fixing with its rival Christie’s and was heavily fined in the American courts last year.
It is not known where the bulk of jobs will go: “We cannot give a breakdown of where these losses will occur, but around 150 people will be made redundant worldwide,” said a spokesman. The $14m cost of this restructuring programme will come principally in redundancy packages and does not include the proposed opening of new salerooms in Olympia, announced before Christmas, but Sotheby’s believe these measures will have saved the company $20m by 2002. An extra $25m saving is expected to be made from Sotheby’s Internet operations following the recent decision to merge sotheby’s.amazon.com with its classier, online sibling, sotheby’s.com. Costs will also be cut, and profits hopefully made, by raising the buyer’s premium charges at online auctions from a flat 10 per cent to 15 per cent for the first $15,000 and 10 per cent thereafter, effective from March 5 this year.

As far as live auctions are concerned, there has been no official word on the future of certain London departments or auctions in Sussex. However, the company does intend to manage some markets “globally rather than on a regional basis”, said Sotheby’s president William Ruprecht. These include Impressionist, Contemporary, Old Masters and 19th century paintings, as well as jewellery and Asian works of art.