Mowbray Collectables was established as stamp dealers and auctioneers by John Mowbray in Otaki in 1974. Mowbray Collectables listed on the New Zealand stock exchange in 2000, and later bought into Peter Webb Galleries Ltd in 2003 increasing its stake to 49.44% over the next few years.
For a time the company was also a shareholder in Sotheby's Australia having purchased a 20% stake in Boonhams & Goodman, in 2004 which was converted to a holding in First East Auction Holdings, the licence holders for the Sotheby's Australia franchise which commenced in 2009.
At the end of 2013, Mowbray bought the 50.66% of Webb's it did not already own for $1.3m. By 2014 the company was finding the going tough and sold its shareholding in First East Auction Holdings for a small loss and wrote down the value of its own goodwill.
In recent times Webb's have struggled to maintain their market share, leading to the announcement of an interim loss of $1.9 million in 2015.
In June 2015 the stamp business was sold back to to the founder John Mowbray, leaving only Webb's auctions in the business portfolio of the newly renamed Bethune's Investments.
Mossgreen provisionally announced the acquisition of Webb's in October 2015, with Webb's to operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Australian auction-house and gallery and the purchase was finalised at the end of Janury 2016
The new year saw a team from Australia quietly move in and start to make some changes, some big, some small, some quickly, some slowly.
On April 14 the rebranded venture, to be now known as Mossgreen-Webb's, was launched at a function in Auckland with Paul Sumner of Mossgreen as the new CEO.
The art team at Mossgreen-Webb's has been reconstituted by bringing back Sophie Copeland as head of the Art Department. She is the daughter of founders Peter and Ann Webb, and initially joined Webb’s in the early 90s, and was the director of fine art from 1998 to 2014.
Mossgreen has also hired Briar Williams, former New Zealand correspondent for the AASD, with experience in the art auction industry in Melbourne. They will be assisted by Aleksandra Petrovic who has been a cornerstone in the department during the upheavals over the last few years.
This new era in our auction house history is going to be interesting to watch evolve over time because one of its stated aims is to bring our two countries and cultures closer together in the Global Village in which we are now living.
That can only be seen as a good thing. Time will tell if that old adage about green grass is true or not.....