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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.

If you were stunned when

America Online


announced it was buying

Time Warner


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

Online auctioneer


(EBAY) - Get eBay Inc. Report

could make a $1.6 billion bid for


(BID) - Get Sotheby's 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

TheStreet Recommends

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


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.


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 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

(AMZN) - Get, Inc. 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


. 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



and Texas buyout firm

Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst

. The French group,


, includes

Groupe Danone






and an affiliate of

Deutsche Bank


Danish brewer


is denying a report in the

Mail on Sunday

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


(BUD) - Get Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV Report

. In fact, the company tells


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



Planet Hollywood


is hoping a listing on the


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



, is set to announce an alliance with

Deutsche Bank



reported Sunday.

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

Siebel Systems



Deutsche Telekom

(DT) - Get Dynatrace, Inc. Report

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

Following three days of talks,


(BA) - Get Boeing Company 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


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

British generator



has finalized its $3 billion acquisition of Kentucky's

LG&E Energy


, the

Financial Times

in London reported Monday.

In Japan, the


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


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


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


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

Wave Systems



Terayon Communication Systems




(QCOM) - Get Qualcomm Inc Report


PE Corp.-Celera Genomics



JDS Uniphase



Harris & Harris



Globalstar Telecommunications



Electric Fuel



The Sunday edition of the

New York Times

takes a closer look at

Hughes Electronics


, whose booming


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

General Motors

(GM) - Get General Motors Company Report

, although the


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.