Martin Di­bowitz: a dif­fi­cult man to pin down

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - AUCTIONS -

MARTIN Di­bowitz, MD and auc­tion­eer of Au­cor South, moves ef­fort­lessly be­tween the wide range of cars, trucks, trail­ers and var­i­ous pieces of equip­ment crammed into the fir m’s spa­cious premises in Ep­ping 2. He stops at each item to auc­tion them off, jok­ing with the large crowd on oc­ca­sion but mostly belt­ing out num­bers un­til each item is knocked down, about 160 of them on this day – and that’s their av­er­age when do­ing one of their weekly re­pos­ses­sion and liq­ui­da­tion auc­tions in Cape Town. Throw in a weekly auc­tion in PE and reg­u­lar vis­its to head­quar­ters in Joburg, and he be­comes a dif­fi­cult man to pin down.

It wasn’t planned this way. Af­ter com­plet­ing his stud­ies at the Univers i t y o f C a p e To w n , D i b o w i t z qual­i­fied as a CA but de­cided to look else­where for a ca­reer path. In 1996 he met up with Ed­die Win­ter­stein, one of the founders of Au­cor, and within a mat­ter of months found him­self work­ing on the auc­tion floor in Joburg. By 1998 he had be­came a share­holder of Au­cor Cape Town, and they opened the Port El­iz­a­beth branch two years later.

Without any for­mal auctioneering train­ing, he learnt on the job from Win­ter­stein. Di­bowitz de­scribes his first auc­tion: “It was a ware­house sale in 1997. The auc­tion­eer con­duct­ing the auc­tion stopped and handed the mi­cro­phone to me, and told me to carry on.”

He hasn’t looked back, and now con­ducts eight auc­tions a month, fly­ing be­tween Port El­iz­a­beth and Cape Town.

While ve­hi­cle auc­tions are a large part of their busi­ness, par­tic­u­larly to­day be­cause of the high num­ber of re­pos­ses­sions, they have al­ways split their busi­ness into ded­i­cated di­vi­sions, and also con­duct a large num­ber of prop­erty auc­tions, heavy equip­ment sales, marine, avi­a­tion and man­u­fac­tur­ing sales. Ow­ing to the size of their busi­ness they are able to have pro­fes­sion­als han­dling the dif­fer­ent di­vi­sions, peo­ple who have the know-how and abil­ity to cater for the needs of both the buyer and seller in the dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries.

At the ve­hi­cle auc­tion I at­tended I heard Di­bowitz warn­ing some buy­ers not to buy if they weren’t fa­mil­iar with the auc­tion process.

“It is of­ten quite easy to pick up a first-time buyer at an auc­tion. I al­ways tell first-time buy­ers never to bid on their first auc­tion. Rather watch what is go­ing on and then come back to an­other auc­tion. Buy­ers must do their home­work be­fore buy­ing on auc­tion; en­sure they are fa­mil­iar with the terms and con­di­tions of that auc­tion, as each auc­tion house has dif­fer­ent cri­te­ria for buy­ers. Make sure they have in­spected the ve­hi­cle that they would like to buy, and have an un­der­stand­ing of the value of the ve­hi­cle, that is, trade or re­tail price. There are lots of web­sites where you can find es­ti­mated sell­ing prices on ve­hi­cles. And the most im­por­tant thing is to be happy with the ve­hi­cle they are buy­ing.”

While he read­ily ad­mits there are plenty of bar­gains to be found on the auc­tion floor, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to ve­hi­cles, he does em­pha­sise that re­pos­ses­sion auc­tions are run on a voet­stoots ba­sis.

“We try to the best of our abil­ity to en­sure that we have checked the ve­hi­cles as thor­oughly as pos­si­ble. If we find prob­lems on the ve­hi­cles, we an­nounce the facts at the sale.”

Fore­warned is fore­armed, and there is plenty of time to check out ve­hi­cles be­fore the auc­tion.

Di­bowitz has con­ducted many in­ter­est­ing auc­tions over the years, in­clud­ing many items from the Brett Keb­ble es­tate. He clearly en­joys his work and par­tic­u­larly en­joys in­ter­act­ing with the buy­ers on the auc­tion floor. He al­ways finds it in­ter­est­ing to see the types of buy­ers that at­tend the dif­fer­ent auc­tions.

Au­cor it­self has been go­ing for more than 40 years, since open­ing in 1968, and has branches all over the coun­try. It has 12 full-time qual­i­fied auc­tion­eers, with more than 150 years’ com­bined ex­pe­ri­ence, and has a pres­ence across souther n A f r i c a , i n c l u d i n g B o t sw a n a , Namibia and Le­sotho. It is BEE com­pli­ant and has a global net­work of auc­tion­eers with whom it has a pro­fes­sional work­ing re­la­tion­ship, en­abling it to op­er­ate world­wide.

Au­cor’s weekly Ve­hi­cle Repo & Liq­ui­da­tion Auc­tions are held at its premises, Au­cor Park, 17 Dacres Av­enue, Ep­ping 2, Cape Town, on Wed­nes­days. For more in­for­ma­tion, call 021 534 4446 or visit­

MAS­TER AT WORK: Martin Di­bowitz, MD and auc­tion­eer of Au­cor South, con­ducts eight auc­tions a month, fly­ing be­tween Cape Town and Port El­iz­a­beth.

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