December 2, 2014 / 8:25 PM / 5 years ago

Head of auction house Christie's to step down amid record sales run

LONDON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Steven Murphy, the chief executive of Christie’s, will step down at the end of this year, the London-based auction house said on Tuesday, following a record run of sales.

Having joined Christie’s in 2010, Murphy is credited with developing online auctions and growing the company’s Asian client base, with offices in China and India. He will be replaced by Patricia Barbizet, who will continue in her role as chairman.

“We have now successfully concluded an ambitious three year plan and the company is in the strongest leadership position in its history,” Murphy said in a statement.

Shares in rival Sotheby’s were up 2.3 percent by 1930 GMT. Just over two weeks ago, its head, William Ruprecht, said he would quit under pressure from activist investors disappointed with the firm’s performance.

Christie’s, which has a presence in cities including London, New York, Paris, Hong Kong and Dubai, has enjoyed a record run of late. In November it held the biggest art auction in history, selling $853 million worth of contemporary and post-war items in just two hours.

It was the fourth successive time since May 2013 that the auction house’s post-war and contemporary sale broke the record for the highest-ever total of a single sale.

The strong performance helped the privately-held Christie’s to report record first-half results. The auction house had global auction and private sales totalling $4.47 billion during the first six months of the year.

Christie’s holds around 450 auctions annually in more than 80 categories, including fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles and wine. (Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Alan Crosby)

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