Epiris today announces that Epiris Fund II, advised by Epiris LLP, has agreed the acquisition of Bonhams, the global auction house, from private shareholders. This is Fund II’s fourth investment. Financial terms are not being disclosed.

Founded in 1793, Bonhams is one of the world's largest and most renowned auctioneers of fine art and antiques, motor cars and jewellery. The business holds more than 250 sales a year at its flagship salerooms, which include London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong. In 2017, Bonhams sold more than 50,000 lots, generating over £450 million of hammer sales.

The company is led by CEO Matthew Girling and CFO Jonathan Fairhurst who will be joined by Bruno Vinciguerra as Executive Chairman. Bruno served for eight years as COO at Sotheby’s, and before that held senior roles at Bain, Dell and Disney. 

Matthew Girling, CEO of Bonhams, said: 

“We are delighted to have found a buyer that recognises the potential offered by this business and its employees. Bonhams is one of the world’s oldest auctioneers – and one of the most ambitious. During the past 20 years we have pursued a growth strategy that has turned the company into a truly global organisation. The value of Bonhams rests with its people, their skills, their extraordinary expertise and their strong networks across the world. Epiris has a demonstrable and successful track record in investment in growing brands and we believe that together we can continue to expand the business whilst still offering the highest possible level of service wherever we operate.”

Bruno Vinciguerra, incoming Executive Chairman of Bonhams, said:

“Bonhams is a business with great potential and a strong track record. I greatly look forward to working with the team to help deliver the next stage of growth.”

Alex Fortescue, Managing Partner of Epiris, said:

“We are thrilled to announce the acquisition of Bonhams, which is Epiris Fund II’s fourth investment. We have taken a selective approach since the fund was raised, and have been assembling a portfolio of exciting investments, each of which fits our transformative strategy. Investment activity levels remain high and we look forward to adding further to the portfolio at the appropriate time.”

Owen Wilson, Partner at Epiris, said: 

“Bonhams is a global business operating in a market with long-term structural growth and high barriers to entry. It is a platform with extensive scope for transformation through investment. We are delighted to be working with Bruno, Matthew and the rest of the team to implement our shared vision.” 

Robert Brooks, shareholder and Chairman of Bonhams, said:

“We have always had the intention one day to pass on the business to a new owner who shares our long-term vision for Bonhams. We would like to express our gratitude to Matthew Girling and the team, who have helped us transform the business into a truly global platform. I am immensely proud of what we have achieved at Bonhams and look forward to seeing the business continue to thrive under its new owners.”

The transaction is led for Epiris by Alex Fortescue, Owen Wilson and Bavya Makani and is expected to complete in mid-September. 

Epiris is advised by Lazard and Ropes & Gray. The sellers are advised by Rothschild and Macfarlanes. 



For Epiris LLP please contact:

Andrew Honnor, Matthew Goodman, Matthieu Roussellier, Greenbrook Communications
+44 (0)20 7952 2000

Nicholas Board, Epiris
+44 (0)20 7306 3902

About Epiris LLP

Epiris LLP is a top-decile* private equity firm which invests in opportunities to transform businesses in partnership with exceptional management teams. We target control positions in UK-centric businesses with an enterprise value of between £75 million and £500 million, deploying between £40 million and £150 million of equity. 

Fund I

Since 2011 Epiris has invested £1 billion in buyouts and loan-to-own debt investments in respect of which it has delivered a gross IRR of 38%*. Synthetic net returns from this portfolio are in the top-decile of European private equity funds of comparable vintages.

Fund II

Epiris is currently seeking investment opportunities for Epiris Fund II, an institutional private equity fund raised in 2017. Recent investments by Fund II include TI Media, the UK’s largest consumer magazine publisher, Portals, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of “substrate” for banknotes, and The Club Company, the UK’s largest country club operator.

For further information please visit www.epiris.co.uk.

Issued by Epiris LLP which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

*      As at 30 September 2017. Gross IRR does not reflect adjustments for investment management and administration costs. Comparator data supplied by Preqin. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

For Bonhams, please contact:

Lucinda Bredin, Global Director of Communications, +44 (0) 20 7468 8394; press@bonhams.com

New York: Sung-Hee Kim, Press Officer, Bonhams New York, +1 917 206 1692, sunghee.kim@bonhams.com or pr.us@bonhams.com 

Hong Kong: Louise Oram, louise.oram@bonhams.com

Tom Buchanan: Paternoster; tb@paternostercomms.com

About Bonhams

Founded in London in 1793, Bonhams is one of only three global auction houses. It holds over 250 sales a year in more than 60 collecting areas, including Asian art, Pictures, motor cars and jewellery. It has salerooms in London, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Edinburgh and Sydney. Bonhams has over 550 staff including some of the world’s leading specialists in their fields. It auctions collectables with a hammer value of £450 million each year.

Bonhams notable sales include:

  • £17,106,500 for Fragonard’s portrait of Francois-Henri, 5th Duc d’Harcourt, sold in London in 2013. The most valuable French Rococo painting at auction.
  • £6,201,250 for the fancy deep-blue ‘Trombino’ diamond ring, sold in London in April 2013.
  • HK$76,280,000 (£6,244,187) for a blue and white garlic mouth vase, Yongzheng seal, sold in Hong Kong in 2014
  • HK$8,636,250 (£814,081) for The Macallan Valerio Adami-1926-60 Year Old bottle of whisky, sold in Hong Kong in 2018
  • £19,600,000 for the ex-Juan Manuel Fangio 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196R sold at The Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2013
  • $38,115,000 for the 1962-63 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta, sold at Quail Lodge, California in 2014 and which held the world record for the most valuable motor car sold at auction until August 2018.
  • £7,881,250 for Madonna Laboris, by Nikolai Roerich. Sold in London in 2013.

Bonhams – history and essential facts 

From its origins as a Georgian auctioneer, Bonhams has grown to become a vibrant 21st century brand and one of only three truly global full-service auction houses.

The company traces its history from 1793, when it was founded in London’s Covent Garden by Thomas Dodd, a famous print dealer of the day.

Dodd’s apprentice, George Jones, assumed ownership in 1817 and in 1850s went into partnership with George Bonham. During the 1870s, the Bonham family became the sole owner.

The journey to the modern company started in 2000 when Bonhams became Bonhams & Brooks, after its acquisition by the auction house Brooks, founded in 1989 by a former director of Christie’s, Robert Brooks.

The following year Bonhams & Brooks merged with Phillips Son & Neale to form a new company, Bonhams, based at 101 New Bond Street.

In 2002 Bonhams purchased Butterfields, a leading auction house on the west coast of the US, founded in 1865.

As part of a phased programme of international expansion, Bonhams opened an office in Hong Kong in 2007. Seven years later, in 2014, it established an East Asian HQ and saleroom in Hong Kong in One Pacific Place. Bonhams East Asian and Southeast Asian network now also includes offices in Beijing, Taiwan and Singapore.

In 2008, Bonhams in New York moved to new salerooms on the corner of 57th Street and Madison Avenue.

In 2009, Bonhams announced that it had taken market leadership in ten leading areas of the British art market for the first time.

In 2013, Bonhams opened its new headquarters at 101 New Bond Street, a state-of-the-art building, designed by Lifschutz, Davidson Sandilands; and in 2015 it completed a seven-figure refurbishment of its Knightsbridge saleroom.

In 2016 Bonhams held its first online-only auction. The sale – Watches and Wristwatches from the Collection of a European Nobleman – was 100% per cent sold.

In 2018 Bonhams is acquired by Epiris, the UK-based private equity company.

For a full list of forthcoming auctions, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, please visit bonhams.com.