After five years of auctioning wine together in New York, Sherry-Lehmann, the wine and spirits retailer, and Sotheby's, the international auction house, have parted ways. The announcement comes in the aftermath of the two companies' biggest auction ever -- a record $14.4 million wine sale held in Manhattan on Nov. 19 and 20.
In a joint statement, Sherry-Lehmann and Sotheby's said they had mutually agreed to pursue different courses: "Both organizations [initially] thought of this as a three- to five-year commitment . We believe that this is the right time for each of us to pursue our different directions."
This is not the first time in New York's five-year auction history that a wine retailer and auction house have split. (New York state law requires that live public wine auctions be conducted in concert with a licensed retailer of at least 10 year's standing.) In 1995, retailer Acker Merrall & Condit broke with William Doyle & Co., then briefly partnered with Tepper Auctioneers, ultimately to venture out on its own. Phillips International Auctioneers, which was recently acquired by LVMH, also conducted sales with Acker Merrall and fleetingly with The French Wine Merchant before settling on a relationship with Park Avenue Liquor Shop.
Reached for additional comment, Sherry-Lehmann chairman Michael Aaron said the decision was based on the companies' inability to arrive at a mutually satisfactory contract. He added that his firm is hiring expert personnel with the intention of auctioning fine wine on its Web site, www.sherry-lehmann.com, by mid-2000.
Serena Sutcliffe, director of Sotheby's international wine department, did not elaborate on the joint statement. "We will be revealing our plans in the new year," she said. In January, Sotheby's will announce its replacement licensee, and the house will resume auctioning wine in New York in the spring of 2000. "The wine auction market is getting bigger, with new people coming in all the time," Sutcliffe said.