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Sotheby's comes out with defense in battle with Loeb

General view of the Sotheby's building in New York, February 14, 2014. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
General view of the Sotheby's building in New York, February 14, 2014. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

(Reuters) - Sotheby's on Tuesday published a 53-page slide deck in its defense against hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb, who has been trying to force his way onto the board of the auction house.

Sotheby's said Loeb, whose Third Point LLC is the biggest investor in the company with a 9.6 percent stake, and his nominees would add "no incremental, relevant skills, experience or expertise" to the company's board, according to a regulatory filing. (http://link.reuters.com/qez38v)

The auction house's aggressive response comes after Loeb last week urged investors to support his board slate, arguing he and his fellow nominees would be better able to reinvigorate the company from within after years of poor governance.

Third Point and other activist investors have for months pressured Sotheby's to cut costs and return capital to shareholders. In February, Loeb nominated three directors -- Harry Wilson, Olivier Reza and himself, to the company's board.

Sotheby's on Tuesday refuted Loeb's claims of poor management and further attacked him by saying that shares of the companies he was on the board of in the past, had underperformed the market.

"Loeb's board experience highlights the short-term nature of his representation of shareholders as a director," Sotheby's wrote in the deck, highlighting Loeb's less than 2-year tenure on the boards of six companies.

Sotheby's also accused Loeb of "greenmailing" Yahoo Inc during his 14-month stint on the company's board.

In May 2012, Loeb won board seats at Yahoo that allowed him to hand pick the current CEO and remake the company. Last July he reached an agreement to sell two-thirds of its stake in Yahoo back to the company, pocketing a tidy profit and relinquishing three seats on the board of a company trying to effect a tricky turnaround.

Loeb last month sued Sotheby's to remove poison pill restrictions that block the hedge fund from acquiring up to 20 percent of the auction house's stock.

Sotheby's annual meeting is on May 6.

(Reporting by Arnab Sen in Bangalore; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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