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eBay to Acquire Butterfield & Butterfield

In a bid to offer more upscale offerings, online auctioneer eBay Monday acquired global appraisal and auction house Butterfield & Butterfield for approximately $260 million.

In a related announcement, San Francisco-based Butterfield & Butterfield said it is canceling its proposed initial public offering announced in February for 1.5 million shares of common stock.

The acquisition is projected to contribute to eBay's revenues in 1999 and eBay said it may have to pay unspecified one-time expenses. The deal is scheduled to close in the second quarter.

While eBay said it will continue to focus on person-to-person online trading, it plans to employ Butterfield & Butterfield resources to enter the mid-tier auction arena. eBay will incorporate Butterfield & Butterfield's appraisal team of 50 specialists who specialize in the authentication, appraisal and marketing of art and fine collectibles such as paintings, furniture and jewelry.

Butterfield & Butterfield also offers eBay the chance to gain a stronger foothold in the European and Asian markets as well, said Meg Whitman, eBay president and chief executive officer.

"This transaction will combine eBay's technology and large community of users with Butterfield's expertise in premium markets and extensive relationships with dealers, auction houses and individuals throughout North America, Europe and Asia," Whitman said. "We will be able to bring fine and decorative art and collectibles online allowing eBay members unprecedented access to many of the world's outstanding collections."

"This is a profitable company with a solid business plan and a first-rate management team. Butterfield & Butterfield also has strong relationships with major auction houses around the world."

In May of last year, Butterfield & Butterfield merged with Elgin, Ill.-based Dunning's, an auction house established in 1896.

Butterfield & Butterfield said it has terminated a relationship with an unnamed local company three weeks ago so that it could work with eBay. The auction house in February was working with Yahoo! Auctions and LiveBid.com to provide real-time online auctions.