Noble Investments, owners of coin specialists Baldwin’s, have acquired The Fine Art Auction Group, owners of provincial auctioneers Dreweatts and rare books, manuscripts and contemporary works on paper specialists Bloomsbury Auctions.
The deal, which became effective on December 18, valued TFAAG at £5.48m, with just over £1m being paid upfront in cash, while the remainder is a part-cash, part-share agreement tied into a two-stage, performance-related earn-out deal over the next two years.
TFAAG, through its 'Dreweatts' business which dates back to 1759, provides fine arts, antiques, jewellery and collectibles auctioneering and valuation services. Regular programmes of auctions are held at its salerooms at Donnington Priory, Bristol and Godalming as well as at other ad hoc UK locations. Since June 2011 it has also been conducting auctions in Mayfair following its acquisition of Bloomsbury Auctions.
Stephan Ludwig, director and executive chairman of TFAAG, and Peter Floyd, company secretary and chief financial officer, have joined the board of Noble, as executive director and group finance director, respectively, with immediate effect.
The structure of the deal makes it likely that they will continue to be closely involved in the running of the Dreweatts and Bloomsbury Auctions businesses, at least until the end of the earn-out period in 2014.
As Noble's managing director Ian Goldbart pointed out, the acquisition brings four well-known names into the same stable.
"The combination of the Dreweatts, Bloomsbury, Apex Philatelic and Baldwin's brands creates a significant force in the auction market and dramatically expands Noble's current product range and in-house team of specialists," he said.
"TFAAG's auctions comprise the key disciplines of antique furniture, traditional and contemporary art, jewellery, watches, silver, antiquarian books, ancient and modern manuscripts, Asian and European ceramics and a comprehensive range of collectables.
"The enlarged group, including our existing overseas auctions in New York and Hong Kong, produced well over £50m in hammer during 2012."
Mr Ludwig added: "Noble's acquisition of Dreweatts and Bloomsbury Auctions delivers a UK 'top 5' generalist auctioneer as well as a market-leading presence in the rare books and works on paper sector."
He sees the marriage as an opportunity to diversify, saying: "As the only publicly listed auctioneer of fine art and collectables [in the UK], Noble is well placed to exploit its market position."