The response to Steven Murphy’s departure from Christie’s has fixated on the idea that the battle for market share is now over between the two auction houses and the search for profits has begun. There’s also been the widespread assumption that Patricia Barbizet is care-taker CEO at Christie’s until a replacement is found for Murphy. But there are suggestions floating around that Barbizet might be at Christie’s for the longer haul.
The Financial Times ran a brief profile of her the other day. And it should be noted that Christie’s today bears much more resemblance to Artemis’s other properties than it did in 2010 when Murphy was appointed. Though there is more distance to travel in turning the company into a luxury retailer of some sort, Murphy has set the company on that path and Barbizet may feel the future is in disciplined, detailed operating:
[S]he joined François Pinault in 1989 as chief financial officer of the French billionaire’s Pinault Group. She has been there ever since, becoming one of his longest-serving and most-loyal employees.
The daughter of a film-producer father and an artist mother, it may seem surprising that Ms Barbizet chose to go into business at all. But she once told the FT: “I chose to go to business school because I was interested in economic life – real life”.
She took to it. During the 1990s, she worked with Mr Pinault as he continued to transform his empire from its origins in timber trading, distribution and processing into a luxury and lifestyle group, formerly PPR and now called Kering.
A board member of several of the companies controlled by Kering, Ms Barbizet has been closely involved in developing the group’s luxury brands, such as Gucci, and fashion labels Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney.
In 1992 she helped Mr Pinault set up Artemis, the family holding company, where she continues to work as chief executive.
Ms Barbizet, pictured, who is married to a banker and has a daughter, remained by Mr Pinault’s side during testing times.