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Online auctioneer


(EBAY) - Get eBay Inc. Report

may make a $1.6 billion bid for


(BID) - Get Sotheby's Report

, the venerable auction house that lately has been operating under the cloud of a price-fixing probe, a London newspaper reported Sunday.

Citing unnamed industry sources, the

Independent on Sunday

said the five-year-old eBay was said to be interested in buying the 256-year-old Sotheby's.

An eBay spokesman declined comment on the report Sunday. Representatives from Sotheby's could not immediately be reached for comment.

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The Justice Department has been investigating price-fixing allegations involving Sotheby's and rival


. In addition, the two auction houses face dozens of civil lawsuits accusing them of collusion.

Amid the turmoil, Sotheby's lost two top executives last week. A. Alfred Taubman resigned as chairman and Diana Brooks stepped down as president and CEO.

According to the

Independent on Sunday

, Christie's is cooperating with the federal investigation in exchange for immunity, a deal that has increased pressure on Sotheby's.

Last year, Sotheby's launched an online auction site with

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. At the time,'s stake in Sotheby's was about $45 million.

David Rheingold is a New York-based freelance writer. At the time of publication he had no positions in any of the securities mentioned, although holdings can change at any time.