Corporate Intrigue in the Art World

Dan Duray in the New York Observer:

ScreenHunter_12 Jun. 26 16.14When news broke on Monday that the Germany-based tech company Artnet would immediately cease to publish its 16-year-old online magazine—the longest-standing online resource for visual art reporting and criticism—people in the art world took notice.

“I’m shaken,” New York magazine’s art critic Jerry Saltz, whose writing has appeared on Artnet since 1998, told The Observer yesterday. He added that he was considering sending back his “low-three figure” freelance check for this month. “A really dynamic, really open, unpredictable, chaotic species just became extinct.”

News of the magazine’s closure nearly eclipsed the larger story from within the company that day, that longtime CEO Hans Neuendorf—who had helmed Artnet since 1995 and built its signature product, a powerful auction-price database that is used daily by dealers worldwide and revolutionized the art market by essentially providing a “Blue Book” value for works of art—would step down at the beginning of next month.

The changes at the company are part of a larger power struggle between the current management and a group of shareholders that has recently been accumulating stock at a rapid clip. Until the announcement that Mr. Neuendorf would step down, and cede the title of CEO to his eldest son Jacob Pabst, 39, the family faced a proxy battle at its July 11 shareholder meeting, and still may lose the company. The threat to the Neuendorfs (Mr. Pabst takes his mother’s name) comes from a group of investors led by Russian art-market analyst and former investment banker Sergey Skaterschikov, founder of the art-market analysis firm Skate’s. In the matter of Artnet, Mr. Skaterschikov represents Redline Capital Management, where he sits on the board. Redline is owned by the Russian billionaire Vladimir Evtushenkov and has recently purchased enough stock to own at least eight percent of the company.

More here.