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Sotheby's Unveils New Commission Structure; No Effect on Wine

Peter D. Meltzer
Posted: March 2, 2000

Only weeks after rival auction house Christie's changed its commissions, Sotheby's announced a new rate structure, which raises the fees charged to buyers and lowers the commissions levied on sellers. However, the changes will have no immediate effect on wine auctions.

"It's status quo at the wine department," said Serena Sutcliffe, senior director of Sotheby's international wine department. Currently, in the United States, Sotheby's charges a 15 percent buyer's fee on wine bids up to and including $50,000 and 10 percent on any amount above that. In London, Southeby's charges a flat 10 percent fee.

Effective April 1, Sotheby's has raised its buyer's premium on property sold in the firm's principal salesrooms from 15 percent to 20 percent of the first $15,000 of a final bid. A 15 percent fee will be charged on the next $85,000, up to a total of $100,000. Sotheby's will levy a 10 percent premium on amounts exceeding $100,000. Internet sales are subject to a flat 10 percent buyer's fee.

Sellers will benefit from a reduced fee schedule calculated to take into account their total purchases and sales in a given calendar year. Fees on consignments worth $100,000 to $5 million will drop below previous levels. Consignments valued in excess of $5 million will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

"Sotheby's is introducing this new commission structure, which benefits both buyers and sellers ... to maintain our leadership position in the competitive marketplace in which we operate," said William Ruprecht, president and CEO of Sotheby's Holdings Inc.

Christie's wine department incorporated some of the sweeping changes made to the firm's general rate structure less than a month after the Feb. 7 announcement of the new rates. Whether Sotheby's wine department will follow suit is yet to be determined.

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Read past news about changes in Christie's fees:

  • Feb. 28, 2000
    Christie's Announces New Commission Rates for Wine

  • Feb. 9, 2000
    Wine Sales Not Currently Affected by Christie's Fee Restructuring

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