The British Monopolies and Mergers Commission is expected to announce Wednesday that A. Alfred Taubman has been approved to proceed with his bid for Sotheby Parke Bernet, the world's largest art auction house.
"We have every reason to believe that Taubman will be the new owner of Sotheby's, and we are pleased by this," said a spokesman for the London-based operation, which has a large sales operation here.
The commission's announcement is expected at a news conference in London. The watchdog panel intervened during this year's takeover struggles out of concern that Britain could lose its leading place in the world art market if the 239-year-old Sotheby's fell into American hands.
The panel's intervention delayed the takeover bids of two American millionaires, Marshall Cogan and Stephen Swid, and shortly after Taubman en- tered into the bidding in June, Cogan and Swid pulled out.
Taubman, 58, a Michigan businessman and shopping mall magnate, had placed a bid of about $100 million for controlling interest in the auction house. He entered the takeover fray as a "white knight" after Sotheby's directors mounted a fierce opposition to Cogan and Swid, claiming the two Americans knew nothing of the art world.
Before Taubman entered the bidding, the Cogan and Swid takeover attempt had almost turned into a modern-day tale of brash Americans pitted against starchy Brits. "A national institution," the Times of London called Sotheby's, whose "survival in its present form matters to Britain."
As the debate swirled, Cogan and Swid, New Jersey businessmen who have made millions in felt carpet underlay and designer furniture, pointed out that they were on committees at places like the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum here.
But officials at Sotheby's continued to rebuff their overtures, and then embraced Taubman's bid when he indicated he would work with current management and maintain the auction house as a privately held firm.
Taubman operates the Taubman Co. Inc., in Troy, Mich., the developer of the Lakeforest shopping mall in Gaithersburg and Fair Oaks in Fairfax County. He also heads A&W Restaurants.
In the art world, he is a trustee of the Whitney Museum in New York, a trustee of the Michigan Foundation for the Arts and director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.