Phillips was founded in 1796 by Harry Phillips, who had been a clerk to James Christie. The business held twelve auctions in its first year and soon became successful. Napoleon and Beau Brummel were among the early patrons. Harry Phillips died in 1840, and the business passed to his son William Augustus, who renamed it Phillips & Son; when his son-in-law Frederick Neale joined in 1882, the company became Phillips, Son & Neale. It was renamed Phillips in the 1970s; it was usually referred to as Phillips, the Auctioneers.
In 1999 a majority stake in the company was sold to venture capitalists 3i, who resold it shortly after for a considerable profit. The company was bought in 1999 by Bernard Arnault of LMVH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton. After a series of disastrous sales and extremely heavy losses Bonhams bought the UK operations of Phillips in 2001 and merged them into the Bonhams name. Most of the rump of the business was closed; some smaller departments were acquired by Simon de Pury and Daniella Luxembourg, who traded under the name Phillips de Pury & Company. In 2002 Simon de Pury acquired majority control of the firm. The company opened its European headquarters in Howick Place London in early 2008.
- About us. Phillips. Accessed August 2013.
- "Russian Luxury Retailer Acquires Phillips de Pury & Company", ARTNews, 14 October 2008. Accessed 10 January 2014
- "Bonhams and Phillips confirm merger", The Guardian, 14 July 2001. Accessed 10 January 2014
- "Phillips, Sans Simon: What’s Next for Simon de Pury and Phillips Now That They’ve Parted Ways", The Gallerist, 1 January 2013. Accessed 10 January 2014