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The traditional auction house was founded in 1744 by the bookseller Samuel Baker (+1778) in London, later rose to George Leigh (+1816) and Baker's nephew John Sotheby (1740-1807). The last member of the eponymous family Sotheby died in 1861. Sotheby's is about 15 years older than the direct competitor Christie's, The first auction took place on March 11, 1744, and contained several hundred valuable books. Over the years, the business has expanded to include prints, medals, coins and paintings, as well as expensive wine rarities. In 1964, the American auction house Parke-Bernet was acquired, making Sotheby's the largest US auction house. Until 1977, Sotheby's was a British corporation, in 1982 the company headquarters moved to New York and a year later the company was taken over by the US businessman Alfred Taubman. Around 1,500 employees work at 90 locations in 40 countries; Every year around 300 auctions are carried out worldwide. In 2013, sales of $ 854 million were achieved.

The main business is art and books. In May 2012, the most expensive ever auctioned work was auctioned. The picture created by the painter Edvard Munch in 1895 "The Scream" changed hands for 119.9222.500 dollars (91.033.826 euros). The International Wine Department is run by Serena, also known as a wine writer Sutcliffe (* 1945), who also runs the worldwide wine auctions. In the list of most expensive wines in the world Auction record for wines is given by Sotheby's with three bottles Château Lafite-Rothschild of the vintage 1869, which in Hong Kong in November 2010 by 1.8 million Hong Kong dollars, which is 232,692 US dollars or 166,910 euros per bottle (sparking a wine of Christie's from). The buyer was allegedly a telephone company from Asia, the name was not disclosed. See also below largest wine companies in the world,

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