Updated at 1:28 p.m. ET
Sotheby's has accepted a merger offer from entrepreneur Patrick Drahi, who will purchase the auction house for $3.7 billion. The deal puts Sotheby's, which was founded in 1744, on a path to becoming a private company again.
"After more than 30 years as a public company, the time is right for Sotheby's to return to private ownership to continue on a path of growth and success," Domenico De Sole, chairman of the Sotheby's board of directors, said in a statement about the sale.
De Sole said the board "enthusiastically supports" Drahi's offer, which would pay shareholders $57 in cash per share — far above its Friday closing price of $35.38.
That payout reflects a 56.3% premium over the stock's recent 30-day average, Sotheby's said.
Drahi is a French-Israeli billionaire who founded the Dutch-based telecom giant Altice — which has carried out multibillion-dollar acquisitions in recent years, including paying $17.7 billion to acquire the Cablevision company in 2015.
The Sotheby's purchase is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year, the company said. Before that can happen, the deal must be approved by shareholders and regulators.
Drahi, 55, said he is "honored" that the board has chosen to accept his offer.
"Sotheby's is one of the most elegant and aspirational brands in the world," Drahi said. "As a longtime client and lifetime admirer of the company, I am acquiring Sotheby's together with my family."
Tad Smith, Sotheby's chief executive, said the acquisition would allow the company "to accelerate the successful program of growth initiatives of the past several years in a more flexible private environment."
Sotheby's currently operates auctions in sales rooms in 10 cities, from London and New York to Hong Kong and Paris. The auction house is also active online, through its BidNow program that lets potential buyers view auctions and place bids over the Internet.
The auction house's sale is not expected to affect Sotheby's International Realty – that's the name of a separate enterprise that has been a subsidiary of real estate company Realogy Holdings Corp. since 2004. Under that arrangement, Realogy licenses the Sotheby's name for its franchise program.