Christie’s and Zachys to split

Christie's auction house and its longtime merchant associate Zachys will call it quits at year's end, when their contract expires. Both plan to continue wine auctions in New York City, Christie's with a new partner, and Zachys independently.

Christie’s announced the breakup on Friday after a two-day sale in Los Angeles with Zachys that brought in $1,944,903 (£1,390,000).

The wine trade generally considers Zachys, in suburban Scarsdale, N.Y., one of America’s great wine stores. The partnership was set up in 1995 and contributed to a boom in New York auctions that has made New York an equal of London in the international market for rare and fine wines.

Christie’s spokeswoman Bendetta Roux, and Jeff Zacharia, president of Zachys, both declined to go into reasons for the separation, but Zacharia attributed it to a ‘philosophical difference’ and described it as amicable. The contract expires on 31 December.

Under New York State law, independent auction houses can hold wine auctions only if they establish a partnership with a retailer that has owned a liquor license for 10 straight years.

The Zachys-Christie’s team also held auctions in Los Angeles, where Christie’s auctions will resume in 2002, a press release said.

The team has been an influential market-maker, with revenues that participants in wine’s secondary market have found strong, especially in two-day sales. For example, $3,348,547 in late 2000; $3,193,734 in 1997; and $2,942,608 in early 2000.

While Christie’s is a well-lubricated auction machine, Zachys has plenty of organizing work ahead. ‘Auctions have become an important part of our business,’ Zacharia said. ‘We want to continue offering them to our customers.’

When Sotheby’s and Sherry-Lehmann, the Manhattan merchant, ended a five-year arrangement in 1999, the store contemplated re-entering the auction business alone. But Sherry-Lehmann chairman Michael Aaron said on Saturday that he had junked that notion.

‘The field is so crowded now with all the competition for competitors’ merchandise that you have to give away the family cow to get it,’ Aaron said.

A New York auction scene that included Zachys and Christie’s would also have Sotheby’s with its partner, Aulden Cellars, as well as Morrell & Company and Acker Merrall & Condit, both independents. Aulden, a tiny store down the street from the World Trade Center, was forced to suspend business for a period after the terrorist attack on September 11.

Auction diary dates and contact information

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York17 December 2001