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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Leonard Joel Auction Purchased By Bonhams

After 100 years of ownership Melbourne’s Joel family has sold its auction business to Bonhams & Goodman establishing the largest fine art auctioneer in the Southern Hemisphere.


In a further rationalization of the fine art auction industry First East Auction Holdings Pty Ltd who operates in Australia under Bonhams license as Bonhams & Goodman has acquired 100% of the Joel business established in Melbourne in 1911 by Leonard Joel. The acquisition has provided an opportunity for Warren Joel and his wife Kate to sell the assets and good will of their family business to the locally operated branch of a large multi national. The merger has provided the opportunity for the Bonhams business in Australia to improve its service to its customers and to lead in a market estimated at over AUD$200M.

Warren Joel, grandson of the founder, said, “This has been a hard decision for my family; however, we identified the need to expand and provide an international service to our customers. We are proud of what we have achieved and we feel very comfortable with handing over the business in great shape to Bonhams & Goodman.” Warren Joel will remain as CEO under contract. “It is in my blood. I hope to stay in the auction business at Joels for many years.” Joel added.

In 1919 the Leonard Joel sale rooms were established in tiny premises in Little Collins Street, in central Melbourne. In 1958 Leonard passed away and in the same year the auction rooms moved to McKillop Street in the Melbourne CBD. The business grew quickly over the next 20 years and larger premises were established in St Kilda. By 1996, the business had again outgrown its home and the Joels purchased the present impressive headquarters in the former, and now Heritage listed premises of the Hawksburn Primary school, in Malvern Road, South Yarra. A million dollar fit out followed and the finest auction rooms in Australia opened for business.

Graham Joel joined his father Leonard in the business in 1944, aged just 16 years and managed the business for almost half a century. Graham took over after the death of Leonard in 1958, the year of Warren’s birth.

Warren Joel similarly joined the business as soon as he finished school. He is a hands-on leader, dynamic, energetic almost to an extreme, and possessing a huge depth of knowledge of the company’s strengths, staff and products after 30 years of toil and learning.

Tim Goodman, The Australian Chairman of Bonhams & Goodman said, “I have had a plan for many years to bring together the great Australian auctioneering families, the Bruce’s of Adelaide (Theodore Bruce est 1878), the Joels, Stanley & Co and the Badgerys both the latter of Sydney.” Over the last four years Goodman has achieved his lifelong goal with the acquisition of all three firms whilst James Badgery whose family owned and operated James R Lawson (est 1884) for over 30 years has recently joined Bonhams & Goodman as a senior executive.

The Joel business will remain in its stunning Edwardian heritage listed premises and operate as it has done successfully for three generations. However now Leonard Joel and its customers will be able to capitalise on the vast human and marketing resources of Bonhams in Australia and throughout the world.

Bonhams Group Chairman, Robert Brooks, comments: “We are delighted for Tim and his team and welcome Joels to our expanding family of companies. Our global strategy has always been to concentrate on each market individually and this new purchase provides us with the ideal platform to cement market leadership in Australia.
“We have enjoyed a close friendship with Leonard Joel for many years and I believe that Tim and Warren Joel will make a formidable team.”

Brooks concludes: “Bonhams see this as a time of extraordinary opportunity and we are looking to continue our expansion through continued organic growth and acquisition.”

The shareholders of Bonhams & Goodman include Tim Goodman, Bonhams 1793 Ltd and Mowbray Collectables Ltd listed on the New Zealand stock exchange. The latter is a market leader in the sale of rare stamps and owns 49% of Webb’s, the largest fine art auction house in New Zealand.

Bonhams is one of the largest auction houses in the world based in London and New York. It is the last of the Georgian auction businesses remaining in private British ownership.