October 10, 2000 5:25 PM PDT

Amazon, Sotheby's closing jointly operated auction site

Sotheby's and Amazon.com on Tuesday announced a friendly separation.

The old-line auction house and the leading e-tailer will close their jointly operated auction site, Sothebys.Amazon.com, and will roll the listings into Sothebys.com, which New York-based Sotheby's owns. Despite the closing, Seattle-based Amazon will continue to link to Sothebys.com and Sotheby's will pay Amazon for traffic.

"It was clear for some number of months that we needed to combine the two sites into one single venue," said Sothebys.com president Craig Moffett. "It was simply a question of making it the easiest possible way for buyers and sellers to find each other. It's easiest when they go to one central place."

Sothebys.com will begin the transition by temporarily closing its site Tuesday night to expand its auction categories. In about a week, Sothebys.Amazon.com will stop accepting new auction listings, Moffett said. By the end of the month, the site will shut down and visitors will be redirected to Sothebys.com.

Sotheby's will operate its expanded site on its own, without Amazon's help. Amazon employees who have worked on Sothebys.Amazon.com will help with the transition and will then move to other projects, Amazon representatives said. The company does not expect any layoffs as a result of the closing, the representatives said.

Amazon currently links to Sothebys.Amazon.com through its "Art & Collectibles" store tab. Amazon will remove that tab when the site shuts down and will replace it with a link to Sothebys.com from Amazon's auctions area.

Sothebys.Amazon.com will be the second store tab that Amazon has removed this year. Earlier this year, the company removed its "Home Living" store tab after store operator Living.com closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy.

Amazon and Sotheby's representatives said they restructured their agreement to accommodate the new changes. Sotheby's will pay Amazon annual cash payments to promote Sothebys.com and will share revenues from the site with the e-tailer, company executives said. They declined to disclose the specific financial arrangements.

Amazon announced in July that it expected to renegotiate some of its marketing deals with partners such as Sothebys.com, which would lead to lower-than-expected revenue from those deals.

But Amazon representatives said the restructured deal with Sotheby's will be good for both companies.

"We wouldn't be doing this deal if it didn't have better financial implications for Amazon," said Victoria Treyger, general manager of Sothebys.Amazon.com.

After much fanfare, Amazon and Sotheby's launched their joint site last November. But the high-end auction site, like those of rivals Christie's and eBay, was plagued by early problems with customer service and shipping orders.

 

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