Bonhams Auction House Sold to British Private Equity Firm Epiris

British private equity firm Empiris announced yesterday that it has acquired Bonhams, the 225-year-old global auction house, from private shareholders for an undisclosed amount. Bruno Vinciguerra, the former Chief Operating Officer of Sotheby’s, will join the company as Executive Chairman.

Bonhams’ head office in the UK

Epiris’official website

Epiris a British private equity firm with an enterprise value at entry at £75m-500m, focusing on UK-headquartered business. Epiris Fund II, advised by Epiris LLP, is an institutional private equity fund raised in 2017. Here are some major investments recently made by Fund II:

February 2018|Epiris Fund II’s first acquisition was Portals De La Rue, a leading manufacturer of paper. But it is no ordinary paper. The kind of paper that manufactured by Portals De La Rue is substrate, a material that is used to make banknotes and security documents such as passports. The business produces the substrate for 12 billion banknotes each year and over 70 million passports.

February 2018|Epiris Fund II then made another acquisition in the same month. It has acquired Time Inc. UK, one of the UK’s largest consumer magazines and digital publishers. Time Inc. UK is a division of Time Inc., the American worldwide mass media corporation. Time Inc. was sold to another media company Meredith Corporation in 2017, together with Time Inc. UK. The UK division was later sold to Epiris Fund II. The transaction amount was reported to be about £130m.

May 2018|The third acquisition was The Club Company, the UK’s leading country club operator which runs 13 country clubs. The clubs have over 40,000 members and offer a range of facilities, including championship-standard golf courses, state-of-the-art health and fitness facilities etc.

Portals De La Rue specialises in manufacturing substrate that used to make banknotes

Time Inc. UK has a number of titles under magazine divisions, including Wallpaper, which focuses on design and architecture, and the equestrian weekly magazine Horse & Hound etc.

The Club Company operates 13 country clubs

Bonhams is the fourth acquisition made by Epiris Fund II. Financial terms are not being disclosed. Epiris Fund II has appointed Bruno Vinciguerra as Bonhams’ Executive Chairman. Matthew Girling will remain to be the company’s CEO.

Matthew Girling will remain to be the company’s CEO

Vinciguerra was the former Chief Operating Officer of Sotheby’s

Vinciguerra has taken up senior roles in several international companies. He worked as the Chief Operating Officer at Sotheby’s for eight years until his termination of employment in 2015. Here is a brief employment history of Vinciguerra:

  • 1986 - 1997|Partner, Bain & Company
  • 1998 - 2000|Senior Vice President Strategic Planning, The Walt Disney Company
  • 2000 - 2003|General Manager Southern Europe, Dell
  • 2003 - 2006|General Manager Western Europe, Dell
  • 2007 - 2015|Chief Operating Officer, Sotheby’s

Bonhams was founded by Thomas Dodd and Walter Bonham in 1793.  The company has been involved in a few mergers and acquisitions. In 2000, Bonhams became Bonhams & Brooks when it was acquired by Brooks auction house. In the following year, Bonhams & Brooks merged with Phillips Son & Neale (also known as Phillips the auctioneers) to form a new UK company trading as Bonhams.

Vincent Black Lightning motorcycle was sold for US$929,000

60-Year-Old Macallan Whisky was sold for HK$8.6m

Edward Wilkinson, Executive Director of Bonhams Asia, has a well-established reputation in Buddhist art

Bonhams is one of the world’s oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. Besides fine art and antiques, the 225-year-old auction house is rising in prominence in other fields. It has pulled off several record-breaking sales this year alone.  

  • January|Vincent Black Lightning motorcycle was sold for US$929,000, a record for world’s most expensive motorcycle ever sold at auction
  • May|60-Year-Old Macallan Whisky was sold for HK$8.63m, breaking the record for any whisky sold at auction
  • August|The bottle of 50-year-old Yamazaki first edition was sold for nearly HK$2.69m, setting a new auction record for any single bottle of Japanese whisky

The above records were set at sales in Las Vegas and Hong Kong, reflecting Bonham’s effort in developing the American and Asian market. The Hong Kong headquarter is now under the leadership of Edward Wilkinson, Executive Director of Bonhams Asia, who is also best known for his great expertise in Buddhist art and deep understanding of the market.

New Musical Express has closed its print edition after 66 years

Companies that acquired by Epiris Fund II have undergone radical transformations. For example, following the purchase of Time Inc. UK, New Musical Express, a British music magazine under the publisher Time Inc. UK closed the print edition after 66 years and replaced it with a digital one online. We are expecting some changes from the auction house under the management of its new owner. But we will have to wait and see.