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While he remains under contract, CEO and managing director Giles Hutchinson Smith is no longer actively involved in the business. Thomas Woodham-Smith, back at Mallett for less than two months, left his new role as joint co-chief executive of umbrella firm The Fine Art Auction Group (TFAAG).

Hutchinson Smith has been CEO at Mallett since 2009, overseeing the firm’s move from Bond Street to the grand surroundings of Ely House in Dover Street in 2012 and remaining in charge following the acquisition of the dealership by Stanley Gibbons Group plc (parent company of TFAAG) in 2014.

However, in difficult trading conditions, the firm (which marked its 150th anniversary in 2015) have struggled to turn a profit, posting a string of disappointing financial results since the downturn of 2008.

Efforts were under way to integrate the business with other TFAAG companies, including Dreweatts, Bloomsbury and Baldwin’s, before the departure of the group ‘architects’ Stephan Ludwig and Ian Goldbart in September.

It was in this turbulent environment that Woodham-Smith, who had been a director at Mallett until 2010, returned to Ely House in October to work alongside picture specialist James Harvey as co-directors of the cluster of businesses that includes auctioneers Dreweatts, Bloomsbury, Baldwin’s and Mallett.

Woodham-Smith told ATG he had been attracted by the opportunity to work within a blend of auction and retail enterprises but the new agreement lasted only a matter of weeks.

He stressed “there are no hard feelings on either side” and will return to life as an independent dealer with The Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair in Battersea Park (January 19-24) his next port of call.

“The truth is I am a trader. I have been a dealer all my career. Auctioneering was new to me and that would have been interesting. But I am happy to be back where I was,” he said.

George Bailey, chairman of Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions and founder of online firm The Auction Room, remains as chairman of Mallett.

ATG contacted Bailey for a comment, but he had not responded by the time of going to press.