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A matter of weeks after sothebys.com announced they were to centralise operations in the United States, they have unveiled what they are billing as a “strategic online alliance”.

Effectively eBay will rebuild and host the sothebys.com site, directly connecting the auction house, their salerooms around the world and their top-end Associate dealers to eBay’s 42 million plus registered users.

In addition, Sotheby’s will adopt eBay’s live auctions technology to enable real-time online bidding for a significant number of Sotheby’s traditional auctions held in New York and London.

As well as sothebys.com’s Associate dealers and auction houses going online through the new site, selected eBay Premier dealers and Butterfield Auctioneers, a subsidiary of eBay, will also be given access.

The new site, which should be in position by the summer, will replace both the sothebys.com site and eBay Premier. It will be accessible from both eBay and from Sotheby’s Websites.

Kevin Pursglove, of eBay, said: “Sotheby’s will begin the process over the next few weeks of contacting dealers tied to the site (the Associates) explaining to them the transitionary process.”

In last week’s Antiques Trade Gazette, we reported on a US survey that showed dealers believed links to eBay gave live online auction service providers, such as icollector, the edge over their competitors.

• Butterfields are cutting their Los Angeles staff by more than half as part of a major restructuring programme that will lead to a greater focus on San Francisco.
The decision follows a disappointing year for the eBay-owned company, according to chief executive Geoff Iddison, who announced that 29 employees from the LA office would go. These redundancies are in addition to the 17 employees (eight from Los Angeles) laid off in December.

The increased use of eBay Premier as an outlet for consigned merchandise, rather than a bricks-and-mortar auction house, is also given as one of the primary reasons for the decisions.

The lay-offs will primarily affect administrative and operations staff rather than department specialists.
Sizeable savings are expected with the ending of simulcast auctions held by both the LA and San Francisco galleries, which required the pricey transport of goods up and down the coast between galleries.
Butterfields directors believe that the eBay Premier Website now effectively provides this service.