What does Taikang Life Insurance Co. want with a stake in Sotheby’s? The Wall Street Journal says that founder Chen Dongsheng patterned his own launch of Chinese auction house China Guardian on visits to Sotheby’s.
China Guardian owns 24% of Taikang with Goldman Sachs owning 13% and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund owning 11%.
The deal offers advantages to both sides with China Guardian looking for access to Sotheby’s expertise and Sotheby’s looking for greater access to mainland clients and sales opportunities.
Born in central China’s Hubei province, Mr. Chen earned a doctorate in economics from Wuhan University, then worked as deputy chief editor of a government-owned business magazine before founding China Guardian in 1993. As he laid plans to build the auction house, Mr. Chen not only videotaped the Sotheby’s event in Hong Kong, but took notes on details ranging from the shapes of the auction paddles to the exact “thickness of the showcases” down to the centimeter, he wrote in his 2014 book “Magic Gavel: 20 Years with Guardian.”
Mr. Chen wrote in his book that he spent the time at the Hong Kong auction “learning and copying all the details of Sotheby’s.” […]
Ma Xuedong, director of Art Market Research Center in Beijing, said the Sotheby’s stake purchase would help China Guardian get Sotheby’s client resources. ”The most important thing is Sotheby’s brand effect, and they [China Guardian] could learn a lot from Sotheby’s,” Mr. Ma said.