eBay aligns with Sotheby’s

savvy of the leading player in Internet auctions with the high-end heft of one of the oldest names in real-world auctions, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The alliance shows how far eBay has come in just a few years, from a virtual flea market for Beanie Babies and hand-me-downs to an all-purpose trading platform with 42 million registered users.

It also indicates that Sotheby’s needs to recharge its online sales and bring a wider variety of buyers into its auctions. Sotheby’s lost $41.3 million in the first three quarters of 2001 and is recovering from a price-fixing scandal, while eBay is generating record profits.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

As part of the partnership, Sothebys.com, the online wing of the 258-year-old auction house, will be managed by eBay and linked to its voluminous trading pages, replacing the “eBay Premier” category, which has not grown as well as the company had hoped since its launch last January, the AP reported.

That means the art, jewelry, antiques, and other high-end collectibles for sale on Sothebys.com will come up when eBay users search for those kinds of items. Some of the items will come from Butterfields, an eBay-owned auction house based in San Francisco.

The companies also will use eBay’s platform to let buyers make online bids for items being sold at traditional Sotheby’s auctions in New York and London, the AP reported. That is a new move for Sotheby’s, though the auction house has allowed telephone bidding on live auctions for years.