Faced with the biggest crisis in its history, the Hôtel Drouot, the central Paris auction venue, has announced sweeping changes to how it is run.
The Union des Commissionnaires, better known as the Cols Rouges,
have lost their monopoly on transport and warehousing and, for the
first time in its 158-year history, Drouot will have a paid chief
The measures were announced on February 3, over two months after
the police swoop that led to the arrest of eight Cols Rouges on
charges of criminal association and organised theft, along with
auctioneer Eric Caudron for collusion in the sale of stolen goods.
More arrests are expected.
As soon as practical - perhaps from next month - Drouot will
employ 'several' approved independent transport/warehousing
The Cols Rouges, recruited exclusively from the Alpine region of
Savoie, and whose numbers have been fixed at 110 since 1920, could
be one of these companies, but only if they are exonerated from
corporate (as opposed to individual) guilt in the current police
inquiry, and if they alter their internal statutes to change from
being a co-operative structure to an organisation with a management
Drouot's current salaried operations manager Henri Luquet,
hitherto subordinate to Drouot's elected/unpaid President, Georges
Delettrez, will be given full executive powers, effectively
becoming CEO, supported by an elected management board composed of
commissaires-priseurs (auctioneers). Monsieur Luquet has no
background as an auctioneer.
Delettrez said the measures had been accepted unanimously by the
73 firms that sell at Drouot, and followed "profound reflection"
prompted by the "exceptional gravity" of the situation. He called
Drouot the "principal victim" of "unprecedented and unforeseeable
events" that had "surprised and deeply shocked" the members of its
The Drouot has also promised to beef up checks on access to the
building and increase video surveillance inside and out "as soon as
possible". All auctions will henceforth be transmitted live on
The new steps followed "provisional emergency measures" taken in
late December, banning commissionnaires from commercial activity at
Meanwhile Drouot has reiterated its request to be "partie
civile" (civil plaintiff) in the ongoing police inquiry, so as to
have access to the evidence.
The investigating magistrate has so far denied the request.
Georges Delettrez, whose handling of the crisis has been flayed
in the French media, remains as Drouot President for the time
By Simon Hewitt