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Senior staff members at the 184-year-old auction house, which opened as Ben J. Selkirk and Sons in 1830, left in January to form a new firm, Link Auction Galleries. The company takes its name from Theodore Link, the German-American architect who designed the saleroom building - a 1902 Greek Revival-style building at 5000 Washington Place. Link Auction Galleries hope to hold at least six internationally advertised auctions a year, the first scheduled for June.

Meanwhile, in plans accelerated by recent events, long-term regional competitor Leslie Hindman Auctioneers are to open an office in Missouri by late summer. The Chicago-based company are opening a new auction facility at 32 North Brentwood in Clayton, Missouri to accompany the regional outposts they have opened in Denver, Detroit, Milwaukee, and both Naples and Palm Beach in Florida.

St Louis Expansion

"We have received so many wonderful consignments from the St Louis area; it only makes sense that it be our next market for expansion. We have been planning to open in the area for over two years," Leslie Hindman announced.

She expects to hold three to four auctions in Clayton within the first year, in addition to sending major works of art and jewellery to Chicago for sale. "St Louis is a sophisticated market filled with important collectors, museums and other institutions. They have long been in need of a reputable, established auction house," said the firm's president.

The closure of Ivey-Selkirk in February has left a trail of unpaid bills and angry consignors demanding payment for their sold merchandise. As reported, last month, on April 6 Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster ordered the auction house to suspend all business pending an investigation into their activities following a number of complaints.

The order barred the firm from disposing of remaining consigned material or destroying any documents concerning consignments.

Attorney General Koster also asked the St Louis County Circuit Court to permanently prohibit Malcolm Ivey from doing business in Missouri and to order him to pay customers for their merchandise, in addition to paying court costs.

More than 100 complaints have been received by the Attorney General's office and the Missouri Better Business Bureau since January.