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Partridges goes for a song; Christie’s finances the deal

Partridges goes for a song; Christie’s finances the deal

LONDON: Partridge Fine Arts, one of the most respected antique dealers in the world, is being offered to a consortium, Amor Holdings Ltd, set up by porcelain dealer Mark Law specifically to bid for the company. Amor has the financial backing of auction house Christie’s.

Besides Law, Amor Holdings has on its board former British culture secretary David Mellor.

John Partridge, 76-year-old chairman of the family-run company, had put it on the block in February as he found it difficult to run it for want of funds. As he made a formal offer to Amor, he said he had “no attractive alternative” to accepting a lowly 4 million pounds for the company as it is running out of cash.

Amor said it would pay an initial 35.4 pence per share, or about 4 million pounds, for 51 per cent holding in the company, a price well below Partridge’s closing price of 55-1/2p on Thursday. However, it said it will pay more, as per an agreed formula, if an auction of some of Partridge’s antique properties fetched over 4 million pounds. It also has an option to buy the remaining shareholders through a deferred offer in four years.

The buyout will end the Partridge family control of the store, set up way back in 1902, primarily to acquire antiques for Queen Mary. John Partridge, grandson of the founder, will relinquish his 47 years of chairmanship of the firm, though he will continue in an advisory capacity for two years. Law will be the new head of the company. Mellor and Lady Cobham, a former board member of the Victoria & Albert Museum, will join the board of the company as non-executive directors.

Partridge is known for having built the famous collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, California, and some of its clientele include the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Rijks museum in Amsterdam and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Located in New Bond Street, London, it has a stock of more than 1,000 items at any given point of time in its 70 galleries. Some of the antique pieces in its possession include 18th century English and French furniture, Old Master paintings and English and Continental silverware.

The company maintains photographs of every item sold by it since World War II.

The Partridge family members will share 75 per cent of the price among themselves, with the balance going to some 350 private and institutional shareholders.

Law said Amor’s offer is better than minority shareholders would have received had the company been liquidated. Amor will immediately bring in 500,000 pounds in cash to tide over financial difficulties. It will also proceed to cancel the listing of the company.

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