Sotheby’s current earnings report reveals some of the composition of the company’s revenue. Remember that one of the most important goals for Sotheby’s is to broaden its revenue base. The first driver of that growth has been the Sotheby’s Financial Services which continues to show growth despite a lower average loan book.
For the first time Sotheby’s is breaking out the revenue from Art Agency, Partners, the advisory firm Sotheby’s purchased for $50m at the beginning of the year. AAP’s revenues are reported under the “Other” line item. The revenues would seem to be around $3.4m for the first half of the year suggesting a yearly run rate of $7+m. (NB: Sotheby’s reported $3.728m in revenue for “Other” which includes AAP’s revenue. In 2015, they reported $335k in revenue. Assuming some “Other” revenue recurred, it is safer to subtract that amount from the $3.728m reported and come up with a figure of ~$3.4m for H1 and $7+m for the full year.)
Growing that segment of revenues will be a real tell for Sotheby’s management. If they can scale those relationships and fees—not an easy management task by any means—it will represent a meaningful growth in the business beyond auction commissions and private sales.
(Update: Several commenters on Twitter have suggested that Sotheby’s acquisition of AAP has yielded many other benefits besides the advisory revenue. That is entirely correct. Sotheby’s made clear when it acquired AAP that it had multiple ambitions, including bringing AAP’s principals into the auction and private sales process to over see the “Fine Art’ Division. Nevertheless, the advisory business itself is an important step in the evolution of what an auction house can be. Namely, as tangible assets become a more important part of the global financial equation, Sotheby’s is hoping to create an analogue to the large money center banks which offer wealth management advisory services as well as transactional and investment banking services. AAP’s advisory business is their move in that direction. It’s growth bears watching for reasons that go beyond Sotheby’s. And Sotheby’s has helpfully provided us with a line item in their financial reporting that gives us the opportunity to loosely track the progress of this division.)