A gripping tale of international corporate maneuvering in which many of the principal figures display far too much pride (or prejudice), far too little business sense and almost no sensibility. It's hardly a secret that Sotheby's, the centuries-old auction house, has been plagued in recent years with, as they say, ""management problems""--falling revenues, staff resignations, accusations of shady business practices and take-over bids by American ""outsiders."" It's a story that's a natural for writers specializing in the world of art and commerce. So far, two have come up with excellent studies. Nicholas Faith produced Sold (1985), a well-written, thoroughly researched history of the venerable firm. Now, Hogrefe attacks the subject from a different angle. Where Sold went into greater detail in telling Sotheby's role in transforming art into big bucks, Hogrefe is more interested in investigating the recent take-over attempt by Marshall Cogan and Stephen Swid, two young Jewish entrepreneurs from New York who, when their plans became known, ran head on into entrenched British--snobbery? xenophobia? anti-Semitism? Whatever it was, Cogan and Swid were, as the title states, ""wholly unacceptable"" to the Sotheby directors. They were insulted, condescended to, told they were ""the very worst kind of Americans."" How they managed, despite such opposition (there was talk that even Buckingham Palace may have been involved in finally ""putting them in their place), to very nearly achieving their goal makes fascinating reading. The ploys and counterploys revealed here have all the symmetry and excitement of a world-class chess match. Even those who don't know a merger from a merganser will be intrigued. Ironically, it was another Jewish multimillionaire, Alfred Taubman, (shopping malls and land development rather than Cogan's and Swid's felt and furniture empire), who finally was deemed ""acceptable"" and purchased Sotheby's for $120 million. There were some questions later whether or not Taubman had made a ""wise"" investment. Cogan and Swid, meanwhile, insist that it was they, as major shareholders, who demanded that the ultimate owner be Jewish. He who laughs last. . . A rousing drama of shenanigans among the Chagalls.