Sothebys was initially incorporated in Michigan in August 1983. It is an auctioneer of authenticated fine art, antiques and decorative art, jewelry and collectibles. The Company's operations are organized into three business segments; Auction, Finance and Dealer. The Auction segment functions principally as an agent by offering works of art for sale at auction. In addition, its Auction segment provides a number of related services including the brokering of private sales of artwork. Sothebys also operates as a dealer in works of art through its Dealer segment, conducts art-related financing activities through its Finance segment and is engaged in licensing activities. Sothebys' main role as an auctioneer or broker is to identify, evaluate and appraise works of art through its international staff of experts; to stimulate buyer interest through professional marketing techniques; and to match sellers and buyers. In its role as auctioneer, it mainly functions as an agent accepting property on consignment from its selling clients. The Company's Finance segment provides certain collectors and art dealers with financing, generally secured by works of art that it either has in its possession or permits borrowers to possess. The Finance segment's loans are predominantly variable interest rate loans. Its Finance segment generally makes two types of secured loans: advances secured by consigned property to borrowers who are contractually committed, in the near term, to sell the property at auction "a consignor advance"; and general purpose term loans secured by property not presently intended for sale "a term loan". The Company's Dealer segment's activities include the activities of Noortman Master Paintings "or NMP", as well as French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. As an art dealer, NMP sells works of art directly to private collectors and museums and, from time-to-time, acts as a broker in private purchases and sales of art. Competition in the international art market is intense. The Company's main auction competitor is Christie's International, PLC (Christie's), a privately held, French-owned, auction house. Many of Sotheby's activities are subject to laws and regulations.