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Updated at 13:28. ET
Sotheby & # 39; s has accepted a merger offer from entrepreneur Patrick Drahi, who will acquire the auction house for $ 3.7 billion. The deal puts Sotheby & # 39; s, founded in 1744, on track to become a private company again.
"After more than 30 years as a public company, Sotheby & # 39; s has come to the right time to return to private ownership to continue growing and thriving," said Domenico De Sole, Chairman of the Board of Sotheby & # 39 ; s a statement about the sale.
De Sole said the board "enthusiastically" supports Drahi's offering, which would pay its shareholders $ 57 in cash per share – well above the $ 35.38 Friday closing price.
This payout represents a premium of 56.3% over the 30-day moving average.
Drahi is a French-Israeli billionaire who founded the Dutch telecommunications giant Altice, which has acquired billions of dollars In recent years, the company has paid $ 17.7 billion to acquire Cablevision in 2015.
The purchase of Sotheby's is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of this year. Before this can happen, the deal must be approved by the shareholders and regulators.
Drahi, 55, said it was "an honor" for the board to accept his offer.
"Sotheby's is one of the most elegant and emerging brands in the world," said Drahi. "As a longtime customer and admirer of the company, I am acquiring Sotheby's along with my family."
Tad Smith, chief executive of Sotheby's, said the acquisition would allow the company to "accelerate the company's successful growth initiatives program past years in a more flexible private environment."
Sotheby & # 39; ; s is currently conducting sales auctions in 10 cities, from London and New York to Hong Kong and Paris. The auction house is also active online through its BidNow program, which allows potential buyers to view auctions and submit bids over the Internet.
Sotheby & # 39; s International Realty's sale is not expected to be adversely affected – this is the name of a separate company that has a subsidiary of real estate company Realogy Holdings Corp. since 2004. Under the agreement, Realogy licenses the name Sotheby's for its franchise program.