In its latest 13F filing with the SEC, Richard McGuire’s activist hedge fund—which originally put Sotheby’s in play in the Summer of 2013 when the stock price was in the mid- to high thirties—shows that the firm continues to significantly reduce its stake in the company.
Marcato now owns 2.6m shares of BID which brings its stake under 5%. The value is still a hefty $100m but nothing near what the firm once held. In November of 2015, Marcato held twice the stock in BID that it does now. Since that time, the shares have consistently traded above $38 making it hard not to conclude that Marcato is reclaiming its underperforming capital for other trades.
Marcato’s initial strategy was to get Sotheby’s to sell its real estate and return the cash on its balance sheet. That goal was hijacked by Dan Loeb’s Third Point which lead a restructuring of the auction house using much of the same cash. As a result of the stock buybacks, Marcato does have the potential to realize later gains while owning less of the company.
Marcato’s departure in the quarter doesn’t suggest Sotheby’s next earnings will mark a significant turnaround. Marcato is now the sixth largest holder behind Taikang, Third Point and three mutual fund companies.