Edward Dolman, the former CEO of Christie’s, is on a bit of a retribution tour lately. First he gave an interview to the New York Times about his strategic view of his new company, Phillips, where he wandered off message and speculated that his successor, Steven Murphy, had lost his job because of excessive spending on online sales.
Now Dolman emerges as a major source for Vicky Ward’s Town & Country take on the dual CEO search at Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Only the story told here—which would have been reported to Ward much earlier—is a bit different. It’s a broader indictment of Murphy couched in terms that seem almost rueful. There’s this from Dolman:
“I think,” he mused, “what you are seeing is the rational side of the business taking over from the irrational.”
Apparently what Dolman wants to get across is the idea that Murphy was an undisciplined leader. That he didn’t know how to balance the enthusiasm of his dealmakers with sober attention to the bottom line:
“The French are very scientific,” Dolman said. “I actually thought Sotheby’s [a public company] had an advantage because they couldn’t see our results, whereas I worked for someone who measured us directly with Sotheby’s. Anyone who thinks that Mr. Pinault somehow was so rich that he had no interest in whether Christie’s performed well is deluded. Mr. Pinault is a successful businessman because he wants to run businesses profitably, and that’s certainly what he expected of Christie’s.”
The story suggests that Dolman was meant to stay on at Christie’s as Chairman keeping an eye on the profitability once Murphy was appointed to act as the agent of change.
He now says he quickly found he didn’t like being chairman after all. “I preferred being CEO,” he says. He also wanted to become a shareholder. “One of Mr. Pinault’s great strengths is that he’s very sure about these things, and we had no equity plan at Christie’s,” Dolman says diplomatically. Qatar was “a great opportunity.”
The story doesn’t say how much equity the Qataris gave Dolman.
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