Who Will Buy Bonhams?

With the auction house itself on the block this time, likely suitors include billionaires and big firms.

April 2, 2023  |  David Brough

Who will buy Bonhams? The question has been on industry insiders’ minds since the 230-year-old British auction house went up for sale in February. Its current owner, private equity firm Epiris, put it on the market following several years of sales growth that boosted the house’s value, according to media reports. Last year, for the first time in its history, Bonhams boasted a turnover of more than $1 billion.

The most likely buyer would be a large private equity company, another auction house, or a billionaire luxury investor. Those are the parties that financial-service provider JPMorgan Chase & Co. — which is advising Epiris on the sale, according to Bloomberg — is expected to approach: private equity houses that are betting on sales growth in the luxury-auction space; competitors such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s; and individual billionaire investors who might want to add a “trophy” asset to their stable of luxury businesses.

One potential purchaser could be Francois-Henri Pinault, billionaire owner of Christie’s. However, it’s unknown whether he would feel the need to add another auction house to his portfolio.

“I think the prospective sale is [spurring] confidence in the auction market,” one industry source tells Rapaport Magazine, citing Epiris’s own apparent confidence in Bonhams’s forecast sales figures. Epiris has reportedly set a price tag of up to $1 billion for the auction house. “If they were not bullish, it would be a difficult sell,” asserts the source.

That said, Bonhams’s competitors may take advantage of its uncertain ownership status to try and woo away prospective clients, the source suggests.

But whatever happens to Bonhams, it’s unlikely to affect the luxury auction market as a whole, which has been going strong for the last several years and looks set to continue its resilience regardless.

Image: Jewelry sale at Bonhams Hong Kong. (Bonhams)


Who Will Buy Bonhams?

Share with others


Clear all search filters