The Market


Malcolm Barber joins RM Sotheby’s

Malcolm Barber joins RM Sotheby’s 26th February 2024

In surprise news known only to insiders since Rétromobile, it has just been formally announced that Bonhams veteran Malcolm Barber is moving to RM Sotheby’s in the role of “senior consultant, providing his extensive expertise across global operations”. It’s something of a ‘return’, as Barber began his auction career at Sotheby’s in 1970.

With Robert Brooks and James Knight, Malcolm Barber was one of the ‘founding fathers’ of Bonhams in the modern era when the 231-year-old firm was bought by Brooks to become ‘Bonhams and Brooks’ in 2000. After Knight’s departure in April 2021, and Brooks’ death later that year, Barber remained the sole senior member of staff at the Bond St HQ from those times.

All three were passionate motoring enthusiasts and classic car auctions became a central plank of the company’s strategy, culminating in significant results that included selling a Mercedes-Benz W196 racing car at Goodwood for £19.6m in July 2013 and, a year after, a Ferrari 250 GTO that achieved $38.115m during Monterey Week.

Barber’s interest has always been in veteran cars, and he is a regular competitor on the London to Brighton Run. As an auctioneer, his confident, unflustered style reassures buyers and vendors alike.

Whilst conducting the company’s sale at Amelia Island in 2019, the normally reserved Englishman was moved to leave the rostrum southern preacher style (above) to handle determined bidding on a collection of Brass Era cars, a subject close to his heart. During his career at Bonhams, ‘MJB’ has variously been Worldwide Group Managing Director, CEO of Bonhams & Butterfields in the US, and CEO for Asia. His final position was Co-Chairman of Bonhams Group.

The departure of a significant figure from one of the ‘Big Three’ international houses follows Bruno Vinciguerra stepping down from his position as Bonhams’ global CEO earlier this month.

From September 2018, Bonhams has been owned by UK-based private equity company Epiris. Since that time there has been an exodus of talent from the previously dominant motoring department: Knight is now a freelance consultant, Jakob Greisen works for Broad Arrow, Paul Darvill went to Schaltkulisse and another Bonhams long-termer, Sholto Gilbertson, was hired by RM Sotheby’s last year.

Photos by K500