24 per cent less profit after tax, £26.2m last year, compared to £34.5m in 2021: such are the stark figures Sotheby’s recently entered for its UK business in the Companies House commercial register. In the entry, the company points to Brexit as a risk factor for UK trade, making it difficult to import and export goods and making selling goods in Great Britain less attractive.
Asked by FAZ, the company indicated in a statement that this risk warning was not an “advertisement” of the business. Companies House’s entry contained “incomplete statements” relating to a separate entity and did not adequately represent House’s global and UK businesses. Last year, Sotheby’s London recorded its highest consolidated sales since 2018 at $1.4 billion.
Allegedly misleading advertising for NFTs
Meanwhile, in the US, the company is facing issues over non-fungible tokens: a class-action lawsuit filed in a California district court by two investors who invested in NFT trading cards with images of bored monkeys from the “Bored Ape Yacht Club” (BAYC). , now adds Sotheby’s to its list of defendants, as well as the company behind the monkey NFTs, Yuga Labs, and the celebrities who drew attention to the NFTs. These would have “misleadingly advertised” the blockchain tokens and artificially inflated prices, which in the meantime fell precipitously. The plaintiffs are seeking damages of more than $5 million.
In September 2021, Sotheby’s brokered about 100 NFTs for more than $24 million to a single buyer; Cryptocurrency scene watchers have suggested that BAYC tokens have passed into ownership of the now-defunct blockchain trading platform FTX of imprisoned founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who is accused of large-scale fraud and money laundering. Sotheby’s denies all allegations in the class-action lawsuit, calling them “unsubstantiated.” The auction house is willing to “strongly defend itself.” The NFT division has recently significantly reduced staff.
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