As followers of our UnBeige Twittering learned earlier today, scrappy #3 auction house Phillips de Pury & Company has been acquired by Mercury Group, the Russian luxury retail giant. Simon de Pury will remain chairman and “an important shareholder in the company,” according to a statement issued by Phillips. The auction house entered preliminary talks with Mercury in July of 2007.
“This partnership with a major player in the luxury sector will allow us to provide a unique platform to new and fast-growing markets,” said de Pury in the release. And he has some experience with luxury partners. Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy purchased Phillips in 1999, when Bernard Arnault yearned to go head-to-head with Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the auction house owned by his nemesis (and fellow billionaire luxury goods magnate) Francois Pinault. After pumping millions into Phillips and merging it with private art dealership de Pury & Luxembourg, LVMH sold most of its stake in the business in 2002 and unloaded its remaining shares a year later. That reversal of fortunes meant a hefty staff reduction and a move from a blue-chip space on Manhattan’s 57th Street to a smaller, funkier Chelsea HQ. No word on Mercury’s plans for Phillips, but we do love a good “rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches” story. So does Moscow.