Sotheby's Holdings ( BID) acquired Maastricht, Holland-based Noortman Master Paintings for $56.5 million in stock.

Robert Noortman is a dealer in Old Master, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. He becomes a significant shareholder in Sotheby's with about 3.2% of its shares. He will also join Sotheby's international advisory board.

On meeting certain performance criteria over the five-year term of Noortman's employment agreement, an additional half million shares will be released from escrow as additional consideration. The purchase price is also subject to reduction if certain performance criteria are not met.

"This transaction brings to Sotheby's a pre-eminent dealer in very important markets and offers significant growth opportunities. We expect it to be accretive to earnings in 2006 and in the future," Sotheby said.

The company's shares were trading at $23.91, down 57 cents, or 2.3% Thursday.

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