Mick McGuire says Sotheby’s will go 'much higher'

Mick McGuire
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Hedge-fund manager Mick McGuire, who sold 2 million shares of Sotheby's this week, said he still has confidence in the auction house and the stock is poised to surge in coming years.

McGuire's Marcato Capital trimmed its stake in Sotheby's from 9.6 percent to just under 5 percent after the company agreed to buy back 2 million of his shares at $36 each. In his first detailed comments about the sale, McGuire told CNBC he sold the shares for "portfolio reasons" after the stock had a 50 percent run-up in recent months.

"Sotheby's started to reach a percentage of the portfolio that was higher than we would want on any one position," he said. "You start to get positions out of balance."

He said he remains bullish on the company and the strategies and leadership of its new CEO, Tad Smith.

"We love Sotheby's, we love the stock, I think it's quite cheap here," he said.

McGuire, who launched an activist campaign against the company in 2013 and 2014, said the company had implemented many of his recommendations and that its performance is poised for a surge when the art market recovers.

"They are doing all of the things we would like to see," he said. "It took the better part of two years, but we are very supportive of Tad Smith," as well as new CFO Michael Goss "who is very strong."

"We expect to see the share price to move multiples of where it is today," he said.

People close to Sotheby's said the buy-back was a rare opportunity for the company to purchase a large chunk of its shares at a 5 percent discount to the trading price and at a lower-transaction cost than buying small tranches in the open market. The company has purchased more than $480 million of its shares in recent years, or about 24 percent of its publicly traded total.