Sotheby's gives critic Loeb board seats, avoiding fight

Sotheby's agreed Monday to appoint hedge fund activists Dan Loeb and two allies to its board, averting a potentially ugly proxy battle over control of the prestigious fine art auctioneer.

A day before a contentious Loeb-pushed vote cold have upended the company's management, Sotheby's bowed to pressure and agreed to appoint Loeb, head of the hedge fund Third Point, along with restructuring expert Harry Wilson and Olivier Reza, a renowned jeweler and former banker, to the board.

"We welcome our newest directors to the board and look forward to working with them, confident that we share the common goal of delivering the greatest value to Sotheby's clients and shareholders," said chief executive Bill Ruprecht.

Loeb, who last year launched a harsh attack on company management after amassing a nearly 10 percent stake, said he was "delighted".

He pledged to work together "to unlock shareholder value by pursuing a strategy of sound capital allocation and growth while respecting the best of the company's rich history, tradition and culture."

Sotheby's will expand the size of its board by three members from 12 to 15.

The conflict was set to come to a head at Tuesday's annual meeting at Sotheby's headquarters on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Loeb had proposed a slate of three nominees in opposition to three company-sponsored board members.

On Friday, a Delaware court rejected Third Point's efforts to delay the annual meeting. But Sotheby's executives had been girding for a tight vote in Tuesday's contest, according to the decision by Donald Parsons, Vice Chancellor of the Delaware Court of Chancery.