Aga Khan Backs New Sale Venture in France

L'Agence Francaise -- the company operating Deauville sales -- and rival Goffs France have joined forces in a new venture backed by the Aga Khan.

A significant part of Deauville's income is generated by non-Thoroughbred sales of goods such as art, jewelery and wine. Artcurial -- a Paris art auction house -- is another major shareholder in the new venture as are several prominent European breeders.

Georges Rimaud, the Aga Khan's French stud manager, will be president of the new body with Artcurial's executive chairman, Nicolas Orlowski, serving as a vice-president along with a still to be nominated breeder.

Eric Hoyeau, formerly managing director of Goffs France, will run the company on a day-to-day basis as chief executive, while Olivier Delloye -- a recent recruit to the Agence Francaise staff -- and an Artcurial representative will be assistant general managers.

Philippe Augier, Agence Francaise's director general since 1977, will stay on as head of a supervisory body overseeing the new group.

While other bloodstock auctions have made relentless progress in recent years, Deauville's famous August yearling sale has lagged behind, with lack of demand from French buyers cited as a reason in 2005.

Last year, the 22.8-million euro turnover was down 19.7%, while the 70,353 euro average fell by 7.9%. The top price of 580,000 euros was the cheapest sale topper since selling switched from francs in 2002, while only five lots made more than 300,000 euros, compared to 14 in 2004.

The Aga Khan, who has reportedly invested 15.2 million euros in the new business through a Luxembourg-based company, is also a shareholder in the Irish-based Goffs auction house, a separate entity. He is said to be keen to help the French breeding industry through his involvement in the new group.

"The creation of this new group of European auction houses and the quality of its shareholders testify to the confidence and support that the latter bring to breeding and racing in France," said a statement from the new entity.

"The merging of the talents of this new group constitutes a focus on significant and durable development, as much in the equine market as in the art market."

No announcement has been made as to whether the new group - which will have a predicted annual turnover of at least 75 million euros - will dispose or retain Goffs France's site at Saint-Cloud racecourse in Paris or even Deauville's picturesque seaside venue.

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