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Central Group closes in on US$5.3 billion Selfridges deal

(Source: Robert Stockdill)

Thailand’s Central Group is set to buy iconic London-headquartered department store group Selfridges for a reported US$5.3 billion. 

The news – reported by multiple international news outlets, including Bloomberg – has not been confirmed by Central, or Selfridges’ current owner, the billionaire Weston family dynasty.

In June, the Westons confirmed they had been approached by a potential buyer. After that the family appointed Credit Suisse to advise on the future of the business and launched a formal auction in July, attracting interest from Hong Kong’s Lane Crawford and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, among others. 

At first glance, Selfridges’ and Central might seem like an unusual fit, but Central Group’s controlling Chirathivat family are estimated by Bloomberg to be worth more than $12.9 billion and the family has owned an up-scale department store operator in Italy, La Rinascente, since 2011. That company turns over more than $500 million annually and has 1700 employees. Central also owns Switzerland’s Globus luxury department store chain.

Selfridges was founded in 1908 by Gordon Selfridge and has since inspired multiple books and even a television series on its success. The company has a giant flagship on London’s Oxford Street, and other stores in Birmingham and Manchester. 

Galen Weston, a Canadian businessman who died last year, bought the company in 2003 for £600 million, which at today’s exchange rate equates to $800 million. The Westons expanded the business to incorporate Irish department-store chains Arnotts and Brown Thomas, de Bijenkorf in the Netherlands, and Holt Renfrew in Canada. 

The Weston family also controls Associated British Foods, parent of the deep-discount fast-fashion label Primark. 

A person familiar with the deal said it would be finalised before the end of this year, although it remains unclear which arm of the Central Group will acquire the business. Central Retail, the Thai-listed subsidiary which owns numerous retail chains in Thailand and Vietnam, issued a statement saying it was not involved. 

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