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Some of you might recall recent news of a recent clamp down on ‘dealer-rings’? 

After some research into this perplexing and seemingly uncalled for enhancement of an existing law, it became clear to us at AAD, that it was, as Lewis so eloquently pointed out, a one sided enhancement, with no mention of auctioneers having to abide by any new laws or adjust certain unsavoury  and well known patterns of behaviour. So, we took the initiative, and sent the following letter to Prime Minister David Cameron.


The Prime Minister's office got back to us shortly after, with this response below, and we look forward to reporting on the outcome of this correspondence  in the near future.


'Battles from the market’ news.

We were recently perplexed to read of an initiative by Westminster Council, declared as ‘visionary’ in the ATG (click here). Perhaps a background to this initiative should be explained here.

Just over a year ago in March of 2013, myself and my business partner Peter Bonnici (now deceased), met with a representative of Live Auctioneers, Mary Harragin. We discussed how we might work together, and what could be good for AAD, Live Auctioneers and the wider dealing trade, and we had the concept, which pretty much worked for everybody.

We had researched well, and were quite aware of the state of the market at the time, Dr. Clare McAndrew’s annual TEFAF report being an essential tool for our research.


The below is a small part of what we came up with:

  • With worldwide art and antiques market contracting by 7% in 2012,


  • with sales in the private retail and dealer sector dropping by 4% in the same year


  • with half of the €43bn art, antiques and luxury design sales going through auction


  • with leading UK dealers, like Mallets, still continuing to make operating losses


  • with continuing expansion of Sotheby’s and Christie's into traditional dealer territories


  • with the entry of UK trade media like ATG into the online auction space


  • with the general impotence of the trade associations to offer any positive solutions


  • with the inherent conservatism of antique dealers and art gallery owners


  • with worldwide property rental costs continuing their upward trend


  • with the change of business paradigm demanded by online technologies...?... if dealers, trade bodies and exhibition organisers in the sector do not embrace change in ‘the way we do business over here’, their futures cannot be guaranteed for long.


From this research, we delivered a concept discussion paper, the contents of which appeared to fill a huge potential gap in the market, and which involved identifying natural ‘Dealer Clusters’ in the UK and abroad. I really shouldn’t say too much about the product we had conceived, except to point out that, it is a spectacular retort to the big auctioneers invasion of natural dealer territory.

The problem with Live Auctioneers came when deciding the value of what we were proposing, and how our time and efforts would be compensated. Soon enough, and quite unexpectedly, the representative of Live Auctioneers bailed out of the negotiations, with our concept paper.

A few weeks ago that same representative, signed up to AAD, so we sent through a thank you note. She came straight back with a reminder of the concept, and how ‘great’ it was. All very good, but I couldn’t work out why this instant renewed enthusiasm at the time. Most dealers do have an intuition, and if something feels a bit strange, we tend to wonder why.

Then, one week ago, there it was, on the ATG website, touted as a ‘visionary concept’ by Westminster Council. 

So let’s take a look at who Mary is connected to, and how she is connected to them. Mary happens to be a member of something called the ‘Young Guns of the trade’, which is owned or managed by a group of people who are also involved with an association called ‘Antiques are Green’, which has an association with the Antiques Trade Gazette and both LAPADA and the BADA, the latter two of which Mary met and spoke with on a number of occasions. We also know from the ‘Battle of Cork Street’, that the BADA are pretty well connected in Westminster Council’s planning department.

The problem with this old paradigm, whereby certain market players think that it’s perfectly fine just to steal someone else’s work, time, intellectual property and money, is that it ultimately comes out, and damages all those involved. In this new landscape of transparency and instant information, it’s a huge risk to take with your brand reputations.

We have advised Westminster Council and Councillor Davis in particular, to cease and desist from their Q & A meeting at Olympia with Ivan Macquisten, who is also fully aware of the situation, and is involved in that e-mail loop.

There may be some middle ground, but, neither I nor AAD have any intentions of entering into any discussion, until that meeting is cancelled.


About the Author

Elliot Lee

Elliot Lee

Elliot Lee founded his antique business in 1994. Having bought his first Antique piece at the tender age of eleven, it has since then been his passion for Antiques, Fine Art, and aesthetically beautif...