08 May 2003 – The Independent
SELFRIDGES HAS received two bids and two expressions of interesting time for the deadline it imposed on would-be bidders for the upmarket department store group.
However, Philip Green, the retail entrepreneur who knows Arcadia and Bhs, said yesterday that he was no interested in entering the bid contest for Selfridges. “It’s not on my shopping list,” he said. It is also understood that Mr Green is also not involved in any other bids, including the one from his close friend Tom Hunter. Mr Hunter, the Scottish entrepreneur who kick-started the £550m bid battle last month, has made a formal bid of up to 350p per share.
Peter Williams, Selfridges’ chief executive, has also tabled an indicative offer backed by Blackstone, the venture capital group. As a result, Mr Williams stood aside from the board’s deliberations on the bids, and a separate committee has been set up headed by Selfidges’ non-executive chairman, Alun Cathcart.
An expression of interest has come from the little-known Reuben brothers, who made their money from metals trading in Russia in the 1990s. A spokesman for the Reubens said a “formal letter of interest” was sent to the company late on Tuesday requesting access to financial information that had been available to others.
The spokesman said: “The letter said we might be interested. It said let us see the financial details and we’ll decide whether we want to bid.” No price has been mentioned ahead of seeing the financial information.
The Reubens are being advised by BNP Paribas, their long-term banking partners. Their bid is likely to be self-funded as they are said to have £1bn of cash or near cash. They are interested in property and their prime motivation with Selfridges would be the flagship Oxford Street site, which is worth £350m.
Also interested is Robert Tchenguiz of the Rotch Property Group. Canadian billionaire Glen Weston has not yet declared his hand while Minerva, the property group, which led a takeover of Allders, is considered unlikely to place a bid.
It is thought to be too late for anyone else to enter the fray, although shareholders are likely to put pressure on the board to consider any bids that are in the best interest of investors. The company’s adviser Merrill Lynch set a deadline of 5pm on 6 May for indicative offers but some see the deadline as “spurious”.
Selfridges said the board’s sub-committee is likely to spend the rest of the week looking at the conditions attached to the bids as well as indicative prices, and whether the bids have secure financial backing.
Selfridges is keen to make quick progress with the bid battle, though an announcement on progress is not expected to be made until next week.
It is not clear who the various external bidders would appoint to run the company. Mr Hunter’s camp had indicated that it would not retain the services of Mr Williams, who only took over as a chief executive from Vittorio Radice a couple of months ago. But Mr Hunter has not said who he would seek to replace Mr Williams.
The key to the bid will be the view taken by Schroders Investment Management, which owns a 17 per cent stake in the company. Selfridges shares closed 0.5p lower at 354p yesterday.