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eBay, Sotheby's set to launch new site

The companies plan to launch their joint site within the next two weeks; the traditional auction house has begun notifying customers of the imminent change.

The beautiful relationship between eBay and Sotheby's is about to begin.

The companies plan to launch their new joint site within the next two weeks, Sotheby's spokeswoman Patty Fox said Tuesday. The traditional auction house has begun notifying customers of the imminent change through e-mail and on its Web site, urging them to register with eBay and noting that registrations with will expire when the companies launch the new site.

"To continue collecting on after June 13, you must be a registered eBay user," read a note on the Sotheby's Web site. "We thank you very much for using, and look forward to continuing our relationship with you."

Fox declined to reveal the date the site would launch, saying only that it would launch within a week from Thursday and that Sotheby's didn't expect to shut down its old site before launching its new one with eBay.

eBay representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

Both companies have struggled to find the best way to sell high-end art and collectibles online.

Sotheby's previously partnered with to create a co-branded site on Amazon in the fall of 1999. But Amazon and Sotheby's closed their joint site in October 2000. Although Amazon continued to promote as part of a marketing agreement, the companies later decided to cancel that agreement. It will expire prior to Sotheby's deal with eBay taking effect.

Meanwhile, in 1999, eBay bought traditional auction house Butterfield & Butterfield, later renamed Butterfields, to pursue the high-end collectibles market. Using Butterfields as its base, the company launched Great Collections about the same time that Amazon and Sotheby's launched their joint site. But Butterfields struggled at first to fill orders placed on the site and to attract bidders. eBay tried to re-energize the site by introducing a buyer's fee to attract sellers and later by relaunching the site as eBay Premier, but the site has continued to struggle.

Sotheby's customers will be able to access the joint site via or through eBay's home page.

In its e-mail and on a note on its Web site, Sotheby's warned its online customers that it will shut down its "Your Auction" feature, which helps customers keep track of auctions, on June 13. On the new site, customers will be able to track their auctions via eBay's "My eBay feature," Sotheby's said.