Robert Brooks, Former Owner of Bonham Auction House, Dies Aged 64 | Auction news | THE VALUE
By: Sébastien Raybaud
August 25, 2021 | sea | 18:44
Robert Brooks became Christie’s young auctioneer when he joined at age 27 and majored in auto sales. He then acquired auction rooms at key locations in New York and Hong Kong, making Bonhams an international auction house.
Robert Brooks, former owner of the Bonhams auction house, died on August 23 from a long illness at the age of 64. Brooks is survived by his wife Evelyn and three children.
Brooks poses with Land Rover Defender’s rare door
Ascension to Glory
Born October 1, 1956, Brooks grew up in London and was educated at St Benedict’s School in Ealing, west London.
Leaving school to get into auto racing, Brooks failed to graduate and ran out of money at age 19. He joined Christie’s as the youngest auctioneer, and later became head of the Christie’s car department at age 27. Brooks then joined the main board at 30.
He left Christie’s at age 33 in 1989 to found his car auction house, Brooks. Most of the Brook team came from Christie’s collectible car department, joined by former Sotheby’s employees in the mid-1990s.
Brooks (left) and Nicholas Bonhams (right) in central London. The two parties agreed to merge and form the world’s fourth largest auction house, Bonhams & Brooks, in 2000
He acquired Bonhams, which later became Bonhams & Brooks, to create an international brand in 2000. The auction house combined the sale of cars with that of art and antiques.
Brooks was determined to compete with the auction house’s two other behemoths, Christie’s and Sotheby’s. It quickly grew with rapid acquisitions of other key auction houses.
Bonhams and Brooks merged with Phillips Son & Neale of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy in 2001. A new company was formed called Bonhams. Some smaller departments were marketed as Phillips de Pury and Company. Simon de Pury acquired majority control of the company in 2002. The company was bought from de Pury by the Russian group Mercury in 2008, and became Phillips.
Brooks bought the Californian auction house Butterfields from eBay in 2002. It then opened in New York in 2005.
It continued to be very competitive and turned its attention to the New Bond Street headquarters in London in 2013. Brooks spent £ 30million and turned the former offices there into a flagship London auction house. He then established an office in Hong Kong in 2007 and opened an auction house in the Asian city in 2014.
Bonhams was later bought by UK private equity group Epiris in September 2018. Brooks decided to retire to his farm near Exmoor in the southwest of England.
Bonhams holds auctions around the world, in key cities such as London, New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, San Francisco and Sydney.
Importance of car sales
The Ferrari 250 GTO was sold for US $ 38.1 million in 2014. It is the most valuable car ever to be auctioned.
Brooks was an automotive specialist and Bonhams continues to develop in this market.
Automobiles have been one of Bonham’s most important departments since its inception in 1989 by Brook, outside of fine art and antiques. It sells automobiles ranging from early veterans to modern supercars.
The Ferrari 250 GTO sold for US $ 38.1 million at a 2014 Bonham sale. Another record-breaking sale from the auction house was the Birkin single-seater, “Blower Bentley,” which sold out. £ 5million in 2012.
Malcolm Barber, Managing Director of Bonhams Asia
Malcolm Barber, Managing Director of Bonhams Asia, joined the Brooks car auction company in 1995.
Barber said: “Robert was a visionary with a very keen understanding of the auction world. He alone saw what Bonhams could become when he acquired it at the turn of the millennium – then in turn, Phillips UK and Butterfields. It was her motivation, judgment and commercial instincts that – in a matter of years – transformed the business from a Knightsbridge auction house into the global auction house it is today. ‘other than Robert could not have done it so quickly and so successfully. “