Exclusive Interview: John-Paul Savant, CEO at ATG Media

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Photo by Phil Adams
Photo by Phil Adams

John-Paul Savant is a seasoned international business leader with 21 years’ experience, 16 of which have been spent in high growth digital companies whose success came from delivering exceptional value to customers.

He has held a range of leadership roles spanning general management, product management, customer experience, consumer engagement, internet strategy, finance, planning, and new market development, covering multiple geographies—primarily the UK and Europe, but also North America, the Middle East and Africa.

He is a graduate of Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service and a concentration in International Economics. He also holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.

What is ATG Media’s sustainability mission? 

As a global pioneer of online auction portals, ATG is all about “Recycled Luxury” and “Recycled Equipment” – from antiques, tables, desks, chairs, sofas, and art, to trucks, dumpsters, joinery shops, electronics, and whole factories. We annually facilitate the sale of items worth over £2 billion through our websites thesaleroom.com, ibidder.com and bidspotter.co.uk. Items that otherwise would have a very limited market for resale, so who knows where they would end up. Recycled luxury is both environmental and fun.

What was the driver behind this?

We didn’t start with a mission of sustainability; it’s more just an outcome of what we do.  But we do believe that it’s important to raise awareness of the range, quality, and beauty of what’s available in the secondary market as many people still feel new is better. With vast amounts of disposable, short-term furniture and household items being sold today, we offer something different. We sell things that are made to last. People can get excited that they can find beautiful, useful things that are not new and that this is an acceptable way to buy.

Who does it primarily serve?

We serve the online buying population of the UK, US, and Europe. Our platform enables over 1000 auctioneers from these countries to reach a wide range of buyers, including art dealers, collectors, and casual consumers. We sell items ranging from £50 to £500,000 so the population we serve is broad. Our goal is to improve the buying experience to make auctions even more accessible to more people. We want to make it as easy to buy a 19th Century pine table from an auctioneer at the other end of the country as it would be to buy a new pine table from John Lewis.

What difference does ATG Media want to make in sustainability?

For each new table made, materials are being sourced, transported, treated, transported, assembled, transported, and probably then transported again from warehouse to shop. In providing the means to buy high quality furnishings and gifts ‘second hand’, the environmental costs of furnishing a house, for example, become tiny. The costs are essentially reduced down to the item being transported to the auction house and then from the auction house to the buyer.  And the same applies to our equipment and plant sales. Re-using high cost, resource intensive machinery reduces the need to make more.

What are the barriers to making that difference?

The main barrier is that buying at auction is not yet very prominent in public consciousness. We believe this is because until now, it has been logistically relatively clunky as well as being often quite confusing. Thesaleroom.com, we hope, will make it a far more retail-like experience and over the next few years we hope to make buying at auction a comfortable and streamline experience.  We are creating a ‘Golden Path’ buying experience to make buying at auction easy.

Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?

We can overcome many of the barriers ourselves, but as we look to the future, we’ll need shipping and payments partners as well. And, of course, our auctioneers and bidders will play a role in shaping the experience that works best for them.

Is the antiques trade doing enough to support sustainability?

The antiques industry and the secondary market as a whole will struggle as individuals to make a difference, as it’s about changing broad-based consumer/buyer perceptions. We believe it takes an aggregator with the technology and vision to change the buying experience to make a real transformation in those perceptions and this is the challenge we are taking on on behalf of the industries we represent.

How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about ATG Media’s sustainability mission?

The best way is to simply read the Arts and Antiques Trade Gazette. There you’ll see the huge range of items sold or available. You can also go to any of our websites: thesaleroom.com, ibidder.com, or bidspotter.co.uk.  And soon, you’ll be able to read more on our corporate home page. Or, of course, you can always talk to me.

What should investors know about the potential of the secondary auction market?

Investors should know that the secondary market is starting to gain real traction from investors.  More and more venture capital or private equity backed companies are emerging to tackle this huge industry. Arts and antiques alone are an estimated £110bn business globally and just 4-5% is sold online today, growing 20% plus annually. Industry and Commercial items represent another multi-hundred billion industry that is gradually moving online. The potential for consolidation, scale, and hyper growth is very real. We’re approaching a tipping point.