Less than two weeks ago, Christie’s responded to a report in the Times of London that up to 25% of the 800 employees in London would be let go by saying this:
A spokesman said Christie’s would not discuss specific numbers until the review was over, which the Times said could take four months.
Today, in a story that retails a rumor started by the FT’s Alphaville blog speculating that Francois Pinault is looking to sell Christie’s (a rumor Ed Dolman, Christie’s CEO flatly denies,) Carol Vogel reports:
Christie’s, which had a total staff of about 2,100, predicts a loss of about 300.
Since Christie’s has already divested itself of 80-100 workers, the remaining 200 would be in line with the Times of London’s report. There is no word whether the review has been completed or Christie’s has simply decided to confirm the earlier reports. Update: Christie’s reiterates: “We are in a consultation period and there are no firm figures until the process is complete.”
In her story, Vogel goes on:
“Our staff reductions are a need to match the business with the scale of the market over the next 24 months,” Mr. Dolman said, adding with some understatement, “It’s unlikely we’ll see 2006-2007 sales results in the short term.”
Despite the global economic crisis, neither Sotheby’s nor Christie’s is planning to scale back recent efforts to build markets in Russia, elsewhere in Asia or the Middle East. Most of the people they rely on in those countries are not full-time employees but rather advisers or consultants, which makes the cost of maintaining offices there relatively modest.
The European layoffs reverse the growth process that took place in recent years as London became a center for Gulf State and Russian buyers. Now that the surpluses generated by extremely high energy prices have stopped accumulating–and no one knows for how long–the London offices of the auction houses are feeling a disproportionate impact:
Both auction houses are also laying off people in Europe but at a slower pace, because employment laws there pose more obstacles. Sotheby’s, which had employed more than 1,555 people worldwide, estimates that 250 will lose their jobs. [ . . . ] Over the last few years when times were good, sales large and profits hefty, the companies increased their head counts considerably.
Hard Times Hit Auction Houses (New York Times)