Weekend Report: Upstart eBay May Bid for Sotheby's - TheStreet

Weekend Report: Upstart eBay May Bid for Sotheby's

The 256-year-old auction house is also facing a Justice Department investigation, along with rival Christie's.
Author:
Publish date:

If you were stunned when

America Online

(AOL)

announced it was buying

Time Warner

(TWX)

, then brace yourself for an even bigger dose of culture shock.

Online auctioneer

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

could make a $1.6 billion bid for

Sotheby's

(BID) - Get Report

, which 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

reported that five-year-old eBay was said to be interested in buying 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.

Such a pairing would combine a venerable auction house whose sales have ranged from

Cezanne's

Garcon au Gilet Rouge

to the jewels of the

Duchess of Windsor

with an online start-up that has gained popularity for an array of arcane goods such as nose-hair trimmers, adult videos and dog biscuits.

The

Justice Department

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

Christie's

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

Amid the turmoil, Sotheby's lost two key 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 the pressure on Sotheby's.

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

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

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

In Other News

French and American food groups were preparing this weekend to make a joint bid for the U.K.'s

United Biscuits

, sources told

Reuters

. The bid could be valued at around $2 billion, although the two sides are still negotiating how to split up the company. The U.S. group,

Burlington Biscuits

, is made up of

Nabisco

(NA)

and Texas buyout firm

Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst

. The French group,

Finalrealm

, includes

Groupe Danone

(DA)

,

Cinven

,

BNP-Paribas

and an affiliate of

Deutsche Bank

.

Danish brewer

Carlsberg

is denying a report in the

Mail on Sunday

newspaper that it is up for sale and is in buyout talks with

Anheuser-Busch

(BUD) - Get Report

. In fact, the company tells

Reuters

it is considering making a bid for the brewing division of the U.K.'s

Bass

.

Planet Hollywood

(PLHYA)

is hoping a listing on the

Nasdaq

will save the beleagured restaurant chain. London's

Sunday Telegraph

reported that the company will announce details this week of a plan to raise $30 million in capital.

AOL Europe

customers will soon be able to access banking services via mobile phones. The company, a joint venture between

America Online

and

Bertelsmann

, is set to announce an alliance with

Deutsche Bank

,

Bloomberg

reported Sunday.

Meanwhile, a separate U.S.-German joint venture was announced Saturday:

Siebel Systems

(SEBL)

and

Deutsche Telekom

(DT) - Get Report

will supply online business software to medium-sized businesses in Germany.

Following three days of talks,

Boeing

(BA) - Get Report

was unable to reach an agreement with its engineers' union Saturday. About 18,000 workers have been on strike since Feb. 9.

Pilots for

Midwest Express Airlines

(MEH)

have ratified a five-year contract, the airline announced Sunday night. Both sides narrowly averted a strike earlier this month.

British generator

PowerGen

(PWG)

has finalized its $3 billion acquisition of Kentucky's

LG&E Energy

(LGE)

, the

Financial Times

in London reported Monday.

In Japan, the

Nikkei

average was down 34.44 points, or 0.17%, to 19,783.44 in early Monday trading.

In the Papers

Forget your palm-sized organizer. The cover story in the latest issue of

Barron's

makes the bold prediction that such handheld gadgets will become obsolete within five years as cellular telephone technology races ahead.

Barron's

also features an interview with Donald L. Luskin, H. Davis Nadig and Maurice Werdegar, managers of South San Francisco's

OpenFund

, whose entire portfolio, as well as every transaction, is posted online. Their stock picks include

Wave Systems

(WAVX)

,

Terayon Communication Systems

(TERN)

,

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

,

PE Corp.-Celera Genomics

(CRA)

,

JDS Uniphase

(JDSU)

,

Harris & Harris

(HHGP)

,

Globalstar Telecommunications

(GSTRF)

and

Electric Fuel

(EFCX)

.

The Sunday edition of the

New York Times

takes a closer look at

Hughes Electronics

(GMH)

, whose booming

DirecTV

service poses a threat to cable companies. The company remains a subsidiary of

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

, although the

Times

notes that Hughes has begun recruiting independent board members and is selling its research lab in Malibu. Could a spinoff be in the works?

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.