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Headlines and Highlights: Week of May 26

Headlines and Highlights: Week of May 26
May 26, 2023
Keenan Flack

Former Sotheby’s Asia Chief Executive Kevin Ching Joins Christie’s Amid a Regional Boom


New Venture: Kevin Ching, former CEO of Sotheby’s in Asia, joins Christie’s as the new Chairman of Asia, commencing his duties on May 24, the first day of Hong Kong’s spring sales week. This move signifies an unexpected switch of allegiance in the escalating auction house competition in Asia.

Significance: Ching's appointment comes amidst ambitious expansion plans by major auction houses including Christie's, Sotheby’s, and Phillips, all striving to establish a greater presence in Asia. His appointment anticipates the launch of Christie's new Asia Pacific headquarters at The Henderson in Hong Kong. Last year, Christie's Asia Pacific salerooms generated a remarkable $833 million, the third-highest ever for the company. Asian buyers contributed a substantial $1.8 billion, equating to 26 percent of the global business in 2022.

Personnel: Renowned as a veteran of the auction circuit and an established jade collector, Ching led Sotheby’s Asia as CEO for 15 years, facilitating the house’s growth in the region, especially into mainland China. His valuable experience will be instrumental in Christie’s aspirations for regional dominance.

Changes: Ching's decision to move to Christie's occurred two years after Sotheby’s was acquired by collector and entrepreneur Patrick Drahi. As Ching was departing Sotheby’s at the end of 2021, Drahi put his 26-year-old son, Nathan, in charge of the region. Ching was named “Chairman Emeritus” and had been mentoring the younger Drahi throughout his final months. This transitional time also saw the exit of other prominent Sotheby’s figures, including former Asia chairman Patti Wong and the former head of contemporary art for Asia, Yuki Terase.

Final Thoughts: The auction business, like many others, is really the relationship business. The game can be broken down into who you know and what you can get them to consign. As the big houses make a mad dash for market share in the region, it would be wise to keep their strongest dealmakers in the fold. Houses are only as good as their best business-getters; so letting the guy that spent 15 years building your Asia business go to your biggest competitor cannot feel good.

Trouble for the King of Collectibles


Legal Dispute: Plaintiffs Gervase Peterson, Richard Berger and Skye Dennis are seeking all gains, profits, and advantages they allege the defendants have derived from the supposed infringements. They also demand an injunction to halt the streaming of "King of Collectibles" and seek coverage for attorneys' fees.

Implications: Preeminent Hobby lawyer, Paul Lesko, suggests this could be a tough case for the plaintiffs as copyright infringement laws cover the copying of a work, not an idea. He speculates that if parts of the "sizzle reel" appear in "King of Collectibles", it could complicate the case, potentially leading to substantiated claims of infringement. However, he expresses doubt about the likelihood of shutting down the entire show.

Details: Interestingly, no contract claims are present in this lawsuit. There are no allegations of a breached exclusivity contract or a non-compete/NDA—just accusations of copyright infringement. Lesko shares that the evidence includes emails, treatments, texts, and exchanges between the plaintiffs and DiNote from Goldin.

Thread: Lesko’s twitter thread gets into the nitty gritty with evidence and screenshots. Check it out!!!

Benoit Repellin named Phillips Worldwide Head of Jewellery


New Role: Benoît Repellin, a seasoned specialist and auctioneer, has been promoted to the position of Worldwide Head of Jewelry at Phillips. The appointment, which is based in Geneva, marks a strategic expansion of Phillips' commitment to the category across Europe, Americas, and Asia.

Significance: Repellin's promotion underscores the house’s investment into their Jewelry department. He has been a noted dealmaker for the house, contributing to the success of recent lots including the sale of a 4.05 carat Fancy Intense Pink oval diamond ($1.9mm) and a brilliant cut D Flawless diamond of 26.12 carats ($2.5mm).

Growth: Under Repellin's interim leadership, Phillips achieved a record annual total (for the house) for global Jewelry auctions in 2021, with a 75% increase from 2019. It also posted a successful close to the 2022 sale season and achieved a record year for Jewels auctions in Asia. The market for high-end jewelry has been on an upswing in the last few years, though Phillips hasn’t captured quite as much of the market as Christie’s and Sotheby’s. 

Challenges: As the house seeks to expand their reach in the jewelry market, they are sure to bump up against powerful opposition in the two big dogs of the auction game. Christie’s recently set records with The Horten Sale totaling $202mm (even in the face of criticism over the troubled history of the assets sold). In 2017, Sotheby’s sold “The Pink Star” for $71mm. Hopefully for Phillips, Benoît has a few tricks up his sleeve to grow the jewelry business against stiff competition.

Final Thoughts: In an Altan blog post, Luxury Auction Market Analysis: 2021 vs. 2022, we broke down how the top three houses were performing in each of the luxury categories. Phillips’ sales totals fell far below the competition, but they have been able to build out their watch business by focusing mainly on higher end timepieces. Their average lot value in watches surpasses both Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Replicating this success in jewelry will be a greater challenge though, as the other two houses are already entrenched in the space with consignors willing to sell 8 figure jewels.

Alts & Ends

As per usual, this week’s A&E broke down three of the biggest stories in collectibles.

  • PWC-see you at Fanatics—Fanatics acquires a financially troubled PWCC
  • Court or critic?—Supreme court rules Warhol’s “Orange Prince” to be a fair use violation
  • Rock and Roll Never Forgets—A breakdown of Julien’s auctions “Music Icons” sale and analysis of the broader music memorabilia space

Collectible Happenings

The Patek Philippe watch previously owned by Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the last Emperor of China's Qing Dynasty, sold for $6.2 million in Hong Kong. The significant auction, reflecting the historical and cultural value of the timepiece, was predominantly attended by mainland and local Hong Kong buyers. BLOOMBERG

Certified Collectibles Group (CCG) has launched CGC Home Video, a new grading service that will provide expert authentication, grading, and encapsulation for most VHS and Betamax videocassettes. As the latest division of CCG, this move is anticipated to expand the potential value and appeal of collectible home videos, enhancing their value, liquidity, and security in the collectibles market. CGC

Following his impressive performance at the PGA Championship, golfer Michael Block has received a remarkable $50,000 offer for his TaylorMade Tour Preferred MC 7-iron, the club he used to achieve a hole-in-one during the final round. The PGA of America also expressed interest in showcasing the club at their new headquarters, highlighting the significant attention this particular piece of golfing equipment has received. GOLF.COM

Laced, a UK-based startup that serves as a marketplace for premium sneakers, has secured $12 million in a Series A funding round. The platform provides a safe trading environment for buyers and sellers, with a unique authentication process that verifies the authenticity of every pair of sneakers, addressing a major issue in a market plagued by counterfeit goods. TECHCRUNCH

The final jersey worn by NHL legend Wayne Gretzky during his last game is being auctioned for the first time at Grey Flannel Auctions. Gretzky, considered one of the greatest hockey players of all time, wore the iconic blue #99 jersey during his 2,857th point match in 1999. As of this writing, bidding currently stands at $189,880. GREYFLANNEL

The NBA and MeiGray are auctioning off a jersey worn by Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets during the 2022-23 National Basketball Association playoffs, including the team's victories over the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Milwaukee Bucks, as well as matches against the Memphis Grizzlies. NBA AUCTIONS

The 1970 College Player of the Year trophy, officially known as the "James A. Naismith" trophy, awarded to LSU's Pete Maravich is going up for auction starting at $25,000. The sale, conducted by Arizona's Grey Flannel Auctions, signifies the historical value of the award, representing Maravich's record-breaking season and his overall impact on basketball. WBRZ

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