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Pinault family office head to lead Christie’s auction house

Patricia Barbizet

The French businesswoman who has headed the Pinault family’s investments for the last 25 years has been appointed chief executive of auction house Christie’s, which is wholly owned by the family.

Patricia Barbizet will replace Steven Murphy as chief executive, following his surprise departure announced this week by Christie’s and effective from the year’s end.

Murphy told the Financial Times he will not move to rival auction house Sotheby’s, where chief executive William Ruprecht handed in his resignation two weeks ago.

Christie’s is owned through Francois Pinault’s holding company Groupe Artemis, which is a subsidiary of Financiere Pinault – both of which are overseen by Barbizet.

The London-headquartered company, which last year had revenues of £4.5 billion (€691.3 million), holds around 450 auctions annually, selling valuable collectibles such as art, jewellery, photography, and wine.

This year has been Christie’s most successful, with sales in the first half of 2014 totalling £2.69 billion. Just last month its post-War and contemporary art auction in New York reached a record $853 million (€691.3 million).

Barbizet is already chairwoman of Christie’s and managing director of another one of the Pinault family’s art assets, Palazzo Grassi, an exhibition space in Venice, Italy.

In a statement, Barbizet said Christie’s had become the market leader during Murphy’s tenure. “Over this period the company ventured into new markets in India and China, launched successful online auction sales and positioned itself at the forefront of the digital transformation in the art market.”

Murphy told the Financial Times the decision to leave Christie’s was a mutual one between him and the board.

Groupe Artemis has interests in wine and real estate, but its most notable holding is the luxury fashion group Kering, which includes Stella McCartney, Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Puma among its brands.

It is also invested in French infrastructure company Vinci and has a 39% stake in European retail chain Fnac.

Its parent company Financiere Pinault is invested in metals, real estate, mining, insurance, and manufacturing.

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