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From cable to Sotheby's: the Drahi empire

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Paris (AFP)

The famous auction house Sotheby's is set to become the latest company to be snapped up by Franco-Israeli magnate Patrick Drahi, who over the past 25 years has built up a telecoms and media empire.

Here is how his empire developed:

- Conquers French cable market -

In 1994 Drahi founds cable operator Sud Cablevision, following it up five years later with Mediareseaux, which he sells to US cable giant UPC.

After the internet bubble bursts, he creates the group Altice, which will gradually buy up several troubled French cable and mobile operators, including Noos, Numericable and France Telecom Cable.

They are grouped under the name Numericable in 2007.

- Rise in telecoms -

In November 2007, Altice takes over telecoms operator Completel, which becomes Numericable's branch dedicated to entreprises.

Numericable becomes a mobile operator in 2011.

In June 2013 Altice finalises the purchase of Outremer Telecom, followed a year later by that of the first operator without its own network in France, Virgin Mobile.

It then gobbles up Portugal Telecom in December 2014 for 7.4 billion euros.

- SFR victory -

In April 2014, Drahi fights off rival Bouygues to buy France's second-biggest mobile phone operator SFR.

Altice pays out 13.5 billion euros for an 80 percent share, obtaining the rest in February 2015 for around 3.9 billion euros.

However, the group's bid two months later to buy Bouygues Telecom fails, when its offer of 10 billion euros is turned down.

- Media empire -

Drahi starts out in the media sector by buying up small thematic television channels like Vivolta, Shorts TV, Kombat Sport and the MCS group.

He then steps up a gear in February 2015 getting his hands on the French publications of the Belgian group Roularta, including the magazines L'Express, L'Expansion and L'Etudiant.

Jointly with Alain Weill in July 2015 he buys for 595 million euros NextRadioTV, which groups RMC radio and the BFM news channel, as well as the RMC Decouverte and BFM Business channels.

Through Altice Drahi also owns the French daily Liberation, having bought it in two stages in 2014 and 2015.

Of French-Israeli nationality, he also owns Israel's information channel i24news, launched in July 2013, and the Israeli television and mobile telephone group Hot.

- American adventure -

After taking a close interest in Time Warner Cable, Altice makes a foray into the US market in May 2015 by buying 70 percent of cable company Suddenlink Communications, paying $6.7 bilion (six billion euros) for the seventh biggest American cable operatoor.

It then in September 2015 snaps up Cablevision Systems for $17.7 billion.

Together the two represent the fourth biggest cable operator in the American market.

In June 2017, Altice USA, the American arm of the Drahi empire, makes its entrance on the New York stock exchange.

- Reorganisation and auction -

In late 2017, Altice's value on the stock exchange tumbles, faced with investors' concerns at the group's debt.

Drahi takes over the reins and promises to limit debt after Michel Combes, who has led Altice operations for the past two years, resigns as chief executive officer.

Under the reorganisation the group's American and European activities are separated out from 2018.

On June 17 the group announces an agreement to buy Sotheby's, one of the world's biggest art houses, which is valued at $3.7 billion.

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