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Simon de Pury and Daniella Luxembourg, the new chairman and president of Phillips, will own 72.5 per cent of the auction house when the deal is finalised next month. The remaining stake will be retained by LVMH.

The chief executive of Phillips, Anne Fuchs, will be replaced by Louise MacBain, co-founder of trader.com and chairman of investment company LTB Holdings. trader.com have a portfolio of classified advertising publications, but they also own buysell.com, an online retail portal like eBay. They recorded a combined revenue of €412.1m last year. Mrs MacBain is expected to invest in the auction house.

The change in ownership means that LVMH’s billionaire chairman, Bernard Arnault, has abandoned his high-cost, high-risk strategy of winning market share from Sotheby’s and Christie’s by guaranteeing fixed sums of money to potential vendors of major collections. Phillips sold the Smooke collection of Impressionist and Modern Art in November 2001 for a premium-inclusive $86.2m, having offered the vendors an estimated guarantee of $185m. Mr Arnault’s LVMH group reportedly paid $78.3m for Phillips in 1999.

According to a Phillips spokesman, the auction house will continue to target the upper end of the market and maintain their 49.5 per cent stake in Bonhams, to whom Mr Arnault sold the majority stake of Phillips last November. Chairman Simon de Pury was reported to be continuing to offer guarantees for private collections. But the long-term strategy of the auction house remains unclear.