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Sotheby's rejects Third Point's board nominees

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News,Business,Auctions

NEW YORK (AP) — Sotheby's said Thursday that it has rejected the three board candidates of its largest shareholder, activist investor firm Third Point LLC, and named two new director candidates of its own.

The hedge fund made the nominations, which included Three Point's founder and CEO Daniel Loeb, in late February. At the time, Third Point said it was suggesting its own nominees because current board members "lack the fresh perspective necessary to overhaul the company's challenged operational structure and cure its cultural malaise."

On Thursday, Sotheby's said in a letter to shareholders that the three nominees, which also include Olivier Reza and Harry Wilson, "add no relevant skills, experience or expertise that is not already effectively represented on the board." It nominated two new directors, Jessica Bibliowicz — a financial executive and the daughter of former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill — and Kevin Conroy, who has worked at AOL and Univision. Sotheby's said that including them, 10 of its 12 board nominees would be independent directors.

Third Point and another shareholder, hedge fund Marcato Capital Management LP, have been pushing for changes at the auction house.

Sotheby's has taken some actions. In January, Sotheby's declared a special dividend and plans to buy back up to $150 million in stock. It also announced that it was separating its agency unit, which handles auctions and private sales, and its financial services division.

Third Point also disclosed in a federal filing Thursday that it increased its stake in Sotheby's slightly, to 9.6 percent.

Sotheby's earlier this year adopted a shareholder plan known as a "poison pill," which can make it more costly for an unwanted buyer to take control. The plan gives shareholders a chance to buy stock cheaply if an unwelcome bidder accumulates a 10 percent stake.

A spokeswoman at Third Point did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Shares of New York-based Sotheby's added $1.71, or 3.8 percent, to $46.50 in after-hours trading.

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