KSince the London-based auction house Phillips inaugurated its new branch in Hong Kong with a 45 million dollar evening auction, bad press from home has overshadowed the optimistic commitment in Asia: The British “Guardian” takes a look at the company’s 2021 annual report , sees numbers that weren’t as good as expected and continues to look at Russia. The company, which was founded in London in 1796, has been under Russian ownership since 2012 – more precisely, the Mercury Group, the largest Russian luxury goods group. At its head are the businessmen Leonid Friedland and Leonid Strunin.
Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine hasn’t exactly made that ownership a bonus in Western deals, though neither Strunin nor Friedland are on sanctions lists and tacitly keep their distance from the Kremlin from Russia and Monaco. Shortly after the war broke out, Phillips CEO Stephen Brooks even openly condemned the invasion of Ukraine.
The company has said it is strictly adhering to sanctions and donated commission money from the London 2022 spring auctions to the Ukrainian Red Cross. At the end of 2021, Phillips, like its two larger competitors, had presented top figures: annual sales of $1.2 billion, the best result in the company’s history. The following year did not bring a slump despite individual boycott calls directed against Phillips, such as Anish Kapoor’s appeal, on the contrary: In the end, the even higher annual sales figure of 1.3 billion dollars was published with reference to strong private sales.
But sales are not the same as profit. The company owes its parent company tens of millions of pounds, which auditors note is dependent on guarantees, according to the 2021 annual report that Phillips filed – belatedly – with Companies House in March for UK companies registers and from which the Guardian quotes of its Russian owners. The world situation raises doubts about their efficiency.
The report notes the war in Ukraine under risks. He also reveals that Phillips’ parent company was converted into a British Virgin Islands-based company nine days before the war broke out; previously she was registered in the Seychelles. The auction house does not comment on the report when asked. It has been quoted in the UK press as saying that Phillips’ development into a major auction house would require a “significant capital investment” from the parent company, which could be repaid in due course. They don’t want to leave any doubts about the support of the Russian owners.