New owners and new venues for auction companies

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Ritchie Bros. has several huge auction venues, such as this one in Orlando, Florida | Ritchie Bros. photo

Editor’s note: As each year draws to a close, the ClassicCars.com Journal polls its editors and correspondents to determine what we consider to be the top-10 stories from the collector car world during the past 12 months. Check out the other top stories here.


Like an iceberg, we only get to see auction action when it’s taking place in public on the block, but there was lots happening below the surface in the collector car auction marketplace during 2018.

Though not on the block, two auction houses were sold and several others enjoyed changes of venue, the latter a trend that already is set to continue in 2019.

As Arizona Auction Week opened in January, Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers, a 60-year-old Canadian company that specializes in heavy-equipment with annual gross transactions in excess of $4 billion, announced it had purchased the Leake Auction Company, the Oklahoma-based collector car auction house founded in 1972. 

Further, it noted that Muffy Bennett, former manager of Barrett-Jackson’s classic car dealership, would become part of the new management team. In May, she was joined at Ritchie Bros./Leake by her husband, Gary Bennett, a former Barrett-Jackson vice president.

They also reunited with another former Barrett-Jackson star, auctioneers Spanky and Amy Assiter.

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In addition to Leake’s traditional sales venues, limited selections of collector cars were offered at selected Ritchie Bros. heavy-equipment auctions. Ritchie Bros., owns large auction arenas in several locations and it is expected that before long, at least one of them will host a major collector car sale.

Later, and within days of the conclusion of Monterey Car Week, Bonhams, the British auction house that dates to 1793, announced that it had been purchased by Epris, a private equity firm. Bonhams chairman Robert Brooks said at the time that it had been the company’s intention to find new ownership that could propel Bonhams’ long-term business plans.

Since 2000, Bonhams had acquired Brooks, its chairman’s former company, as well as Phillips Sons & Neal and U.S. auction house Butterfields. 

Bonhams conducts more than 250 auctions a year, including many focused on collector cars and motorcycles. New on its 2018 calendar were a collector car auction at the Auto e Moto d’Epoca in Padua, Italy, and a vintage motorcycle sale at the Barber Motorcycle Museum in Alabama. 

Early in 2018, it will handle the auction of the collection of the Tupelo Automotive Museum in Mississippi. In 2018, it handled the sale of the collection of the Den Hartough Museum in the Netherlands.

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In another museum deaccession sale, Worldwide Auctioneers handled the distribution of the contents of the Hostetler Hudson Museum in northern Indiana in 2018.

RM Sotheby’s also visited new venues in 2018 with auctions at the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta and at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. RM Sotheby’s has announced another new venue for 2019, its first auction at Techno-Classics Essen in Germany.

Also new for 2019, Mecum Auctions will stage a collector car sale in Glendale, Arizona (replacing its annual visit to Southern California and one of its two sales in Kansas City), and Russo and Steele will join the party at Amelia Island, Florida, with its inaugural auction during the concours d’elegance weekend.

Though established in 1999, EG Auctions has moved from Canada to Coachella Valley, California, and staged its inaugural Cars, Stars and Rock ’N Roll auction at Palm Springs in 2018, with two more scheduled for 2019.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the Web and becoming the author of more than 15 books. In addition to being Editorial Director at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times, writes a weekly automotive feature for The Detroit News and is an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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