Sotheby's

(BID) - Get Report

posted a fourth-quarter loss rather than an expected gain Wednesday, blaming the reversal on hits from legal and restructuring charges and a decline in single-owner auction sales.

The auction house reported a loss of $6.5 million, or 11 cents a share, compared with a gain of $34.4 million, or 57 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Two analysts polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial

expected the company to earn 31 cents a share.

Revenue was $143.1 million, down from $188.1 million in the year-ago quarter.

Legal costs took a toll. The company recorded a pre-tax charge of $203.1 million in 2000 to settle antitrust and shareholder class-action suits, as well as fines from a plea bargain with the

U.S. Department of Justice

. The company and its former president and CEO, Diana Brooks, pleaded guilty last October to a multimillion-dollar price-fixing scheme with rival

Christie's

.

In recent trading on the

New York Stock Exchange

, Sotheby's fell 49 cents, or 2.1%, to $23.25.