If you’re wondering why Daniel Loeb announced a lawsuit against Sotheby’s yesterday, you don’t have to look much further than a chart of the stock price since Marcato first announced its activist stake in Sotheby’s on July 30th of 2013. Since that time, the stock price has almost fully round-tripped from $41.95 on July 29th to a low of $42.50 on monday of this week.
The last information on Sotheby’s institutional ownership is now almost three months old. But Loeb’s posturing suggests he might actually be serious about owning more of the stock or even the company as a whole. So far Marcato seems to have missed two opportunities to get out for a 60% gain, a huge hit for any hedge fund position. And, Loeb, who most likely bought later, has a position that is probably underwater.
Finally, since it looks like this board fight is going to go to the ballots, here’s a look at who is doing the voting. Based upon the December 31, 2013 holdings, the top ten holders have 47% of the outstanding shares. Roughly half of the holders are hedge funds who built stakes since July of 2013. The others are asset managers and mutual funds with long-term holdings who possess the swing votes that will determine the future of management.