World Business: An Artful Takeover

London's Sotheby & Co. has become the world's largest art auction house by conscientious attention to both fine detail and broad brush stroke in the art of auctioneering. Last week Sotheby's also portrayed deft talent as a buyer. Outbidding U.S. Investment Executive Alex Hillman, it paid $1.5 million to win 75% control of the major U.S. auction house, Manhattan's Parke-Bernet Galleries. By acquiring its biggest U.S. competitor, Sotheby's secured a long-needed U.S. auction outlet and assured itself the role of auctioneer for most of the important American art collections that come up for sale.

Parke-Bernet was able to paint a rosy financial...