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The news broke as he announced that he was to quit as executive director of the Qatar Museums Authority, a post he took up on leaving Christie's in 2011.

Mr Dolman takes over from Michael McGinnis, who will remain as the company's chief business getter. Mr McGinnis became chief executive after Simon de Pury, who recreated the company in its latest guise as a specialist auctioneer in Contemporary art, photography, design and jewellery, quit in early 2013.

Now based in London and New York, Phillips as it stands today emerged from a series of sales and takeovers that started with de Pury acquiring the rump of the traditional auction firm when much of Phillips was sold by then owner Bernard Arnault to Bonhams in 2001. Mr Arnault sold his remaining stake to de Pury and his then partner, Daniella Luxembourg, in 2003, and at that point they changed the name to Phillips de Pury Luxembourg.

In 2004, Ms Luxembourg sold her stake and left to launch an art investment company, with the firm changing its name once more, this time to Phillips de Pury & Company.

The Moscow-based luxury retail giant Mercury Group bought a majority stake in the autumn of 2008, with de Pury remaining as chairman. He finally quit when he sold his remaining stake to Mercury at the end of 2012.

Mr Dolman's plans have yet to emerge, but with his decades of experience and extensive contacts, expanding the business by broadening its specialisms is expected to be at the forefront of developments.