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In what they say amounts to a major restructuring of the business, Paul Roberts and Nick Curnow - both part of the team of five who saw the Edinburgh auctioneers take on a new lease of life in 1999 - are to take small steps backwards and become joint vice chairmen as established members of staff come to the fore. In their place are Gavin Strang as managing director and Lee Young as international director.

Gavin Strang, 42, started his auction career in Christie's in 1997, joining the Lyon & Turnbull team as a general valuer and carpet specialist in 2002. He became a director in 2007.

He is taking over from Nick Curnow who said: "Gavin has been responsible for the orchestration and smooth running of our very successful single-owner collection sales and is the natural choice in a role where his organisational and management skills can be well utilised."

Lee Young, 43, started his auction career at Hamptons of Godalming in Surrey, later working for Phillip's in Guildford and Ringwood, Sotheby's and Freeman's of Philadelphia. He moved back to the UK in 2007 to join Lyon & Turnbull as head of the fine antiques department, becoming a director in 2012. He is currently head of the Asian art department.

Two other appointments form part of the internal shake-up: Mhairi McFadden takes over from fellow founding director Campbell Armour as company secretary, while Alex Dove becomes marketing manager. Both have many years' experience with the company.

Essential to adapt

Paul Roberts told  ATG  the appointments had been made now as part of a succession strategy designed to ensure the future of the business.

"In the dynamic digital world we now live, change is inevitable. For companies to grow and thrive they must adapt. It's people that are key to the process and they must therefore plan their succession with greater care and expedition than was historically normal.

"The directors of Lyon and Turnbull were very focussed on demonstrating it is a company of real opportunity, both by retaining, training and promoting their existing talent and thereby become a magnet for external talent with drive and imagination."


Whatever the brand, regional auctioneers are seldom more than the combined talents of a handful of individuals and their client lists. Astonishingly this far-sighted move by Lyon & Turnbull tends to be the exception rather than the rule among the UK's provincial auction houses. What they and firms such as Tennants of Leyburn are doing to bring on new talent at the top not only contributes to their future prosperity and the vibrancy of the fine art and antique auction business, it also helps to ensure that owners who have often spent decades building up such firms have the opportunity to realise a proportion of that asset for their retirement. Perhaps more should follow this example.