The ghosts of Phillips employees past must be spinning in astonishment. Their firm, once the reliable but hardly glamorous purveyor of brown furniture to middle England, is being repositioned as a superpower in the auction world.
The latest step in this massive overhaul is the appointment of two of the world’s most glamorous women to its advisory board. Both are immensely rich and well connected.
Francesca von Habsburg has the stronger art credentials, being the daughter of Heini Thyssen-Bornemisza, who owns one of the finest art collections in the world. Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, widow of Prince Johannes, and once an extravagant hell-raiser, is now restructuring the family fortunes in the vast castle at Regensburg in Germany.
They will join other international heavyweights on the Phillips board, including Lord Powell of Bayswater, J. Carter Brown (former director of the National Gallery in Washington) and Gert-Rudolf Flick. LVMH, which bought Phillips in 1999, posted record profits for 2000 but noted a slowdown in sales in early 2001. While chairman Bernard Arnault now says that acquisitions will be limited this year, he has certainly not stopped spending: just last month LVMH was in talks to buy the American fashion house, Donna Karan, for $243 million.
originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'New glamour on Phillips Board'