Home / Business / The new owner of Sotheby's, Drahi – a Franco-Israeli tycoon with a taste for expensive art

The new owner of Sotheby's, Drahi – a Franco-Israeli tycoon with a taste for expensive art

PARIS (AFP) – Franco-Israeli billionaire Patrick Drahi, who buys Sotheby's auction house, has been keeping a low profile despite his international business interests.

This father of four is a passionate art collector and a "longtime customer and long-time admirer" of Sotheby's, he admits.

The ninth richest man in France, whose magazine Forbes valued at 9.1 billion dollars his fortune, has several nationalities – French, Israeli and Portuguese – and resides in Switzerland.

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But unlike the billionaire François Pinault, or Xavier Niel, a mogul of media and media, Drahi is not an immediately recognizable character in France.

On this January 30, 2019 file photo at Sotheby's in New York, Sotheby's employees are answering phone auctions for a work of art. (Don EMMERT / AFP)

In a profile of 2017, the French magazine Obs quoted his words for praising the virtues of discretion.

"If you want to succeed, work hard, have fun and most of all, listen and do not talk too much," he said.

Drahi, aged 55, was born on August 20, 1963 in Casablanca in the Moroccan city of Casablanca. He was the son of two mathematics teachers.

He moved to France at the age of 15 and then studied at the highest engineering school in the country, the Elite Ecole Polytechnique.

In this file, photo taken on November 7, 2016, Patrick Drahi, CEO of Altice, arrives for the launch of the new television channel BFM Paris in Paris. (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU / AFP)

After graduating, he immediately began working in the fiber optic and cable business, starting his career with the Philips group, then with a subsidiary of the cable giant Liberty Global, before going solo.

After buying several struggling mobile and cable operators, he joined the big league in 2014 fighting his rival Bouygues to buy the second largest mobile operator in France, SFR.

The following year, he made his dramatic entry into the US market by bringing the cable company Suddenlink together under a $ 9 billion contract in 2015, and then from Cablevision for $ 17.7 billion. dollars in 2016 and in April from American start-up Cheddar, specializing in financial video.

Through the Dutch company Altice, it also owns 75% of Numericable, the largest cable operator in France, as well as the Liberation newspaper, the BFM news channel and the Israeli international network i24 News.

French unions dubbed him the "cost killer," but by 2017, his acquisitions had earned him about 50 billion euros of accumulated debt, toppling his share price into freefall.

Promising to slow down his expansion, Drahi returned this year as Chairman of the Board.

Drahi's appetite for works of art seems to match his fortune. The ArtPrice online art sales database ranks it as the 252nd largest art collector in the world.

"This is a very secretive and elitist art collector … he is particularly fond of contemporary art," said AFP Thierry Ehrmann, ArtPrice CEO, adding that Drahi had in his collection some "quite spectacular" works of the belarusian French artist Marc Chagall of the 20th century.

A source in Drahi's entourage said he had "an encyclopedic knowledge of classical music and painting."

"He knows when they were painted and in what museum they are," the source told AFP.

In a statement, Sotheby's CEO Tad Smith praised "Drahi's commitment to innovation and ingenuity".

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