Sotheby's CEO to step down; auction house says search for successor under way

Sotheby's says CEO William Ruprecht will step down and that its board has started a search for its next chief executive.

The change comes after activist investor Daniel Loeb joined the board of the New York auction house earlier this year. Loeb's hedge fund Third Point is Sotheby's largest investor with a 9.6 percent stake, according to FactSet.

Sotheby's said Ruprecht, 58, will continue in his role as CEO, chairman and president until a successor is found. Ruprecht had joined the company in 1980 and served in various management roles before becoming chief executive and president in 2000, then adding the chairman title in 2012.

Sotheby's has been under pressure to change by Third Point LLC, which nominated three people including Loeb to the company's board earlier this year. Third Point had said at the time Sotheby's board members "lack the fresh perspective necessary to overhaul the company's challenged operational structure and cure its cultural malaise."

Sotheby's says it retained executive search firm Spencer Stuart to help oversee the recruitment of its new CEO. Domenico De Sole, its lead independent director, is leading the committee.

Shares of Sotheby's rose 7 percent to $41.90 in after-hours trading.