London: The billionaire dynasty behind Selfridges & Co. sold the UK department store operator to a consortium led by Thai conglomerate Central Group as part of one of the UK’s largest retail deals since years. The Weston family said Central Group, which is owned by the Chirathivats – one of Asia’s richest families – and Austria’s Signa Holding, have formed a joint venture to buy the retail group.
Central and Signa will own the channel in a 50-50 partnership, according to a statement. No pricing was disclosed, but Bloomberg previously reported that the Weston family were considering a £ 4bn ($ 5.4bn) approach and appointed Credit Suisse as an advisor in June.
Selfridges, founded in 1908 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, is best known for the giant Oxford Street store in London which has long been a magnet for fashion enthusiasts. There are also Selfridges stores in Manchester and Birmingham.
A main role
The founder of Selfridges was the subject of an ITV Studios and PBS television series that ran for four seasons until 2016. Called “Mr. Selfridge,” the series focused on the real story of the American. who started the business and with Jeremy Piven.
More stores, more brands
The company was bought by Canadian businessman Galen Weston for almost £ 600million in 2003 and has since expanded to include other department store chains including Arnotts and Brown Thomas in Ireland, Holt Renfrew in Canada and Bijenkorf in the Netherlands. (The sale to Central and Signa does not include Holt Renfrew, who will remain with the Weston family.)
Central Group is a family business involved in a multitude of industries, from real estate and retail to hotels and restaurants. The Chirathivat family had the 20th largest fortune in Asia, with a value of $ 12.9 billion.
Signa was founded by real estate and retail entrepreneur René Benko, who owns or holds stakes in some of the world’s most famous properties, including the Chrysler Building in New York City. Trophy assets in the UK have generated interest even as retailing on major shopping streets suffers. Retail property values have declined in recent years and the industry has been hit by the pandemic and the shift to online shopping.
Selfridges is one of the most famous department stores in the world and has weathered the pandemic well. A considerable part of the asset’s value resides in the significant portion of the London real estate it owns on Oxford Street.
The company operates 18 department stores and a total of 25 stores worldwide through its five brands. The Selfridges group will be part of the combined portfolio of luxury department stores Central and Signa, which owns Rinascente in Italy, Illum in Denmark, Globus in Switzerland and the KaDeWe group, which operates in Germany and Austria (from 2024).