Selfridges sold to Thai and Austrian billionaires in £4bn deal

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Historic retailer Selfridges has been bought in a roughly £4 billion deal by a partnership of Thai and Austrian billionaires.

The deal spells the end of almost 20 years of ownership for the luxury department store giant by the Weston family, following months of negotiations with its new buyers.

Central Group, controlled by the Thai Chirathivat family, and Austrian real estate specialists Signa Group, will take control of Selfridges in a 50-50 joint venture.

It is understood they have beaten off a raft of rival bids, including from the Qatar Investment Authority, which owns Harrods.

The deal with the Westons will include the retailer’s four UK stores – two in Manchester, one in Birmingham and its flagship site on London’s Oxford Street – as well as 14 other shops including Arnotts and Brown Thomas in Ireland.

The business can trace its roots back to 1908, when it was founded by Harry Gordon Selfridge, and has been owned by the Westons since 2003.

The Weston family – who also own Fortnum & Mason and have majority control of Primark owner ABF – launched the sales process in June, a few months after the death of W Galen Weston, who oversaw the move to take the department store.

Alannah Weston, chair of Selfridges Group and daughter of Galen Weston, said the move is testament to her “father’s vision for an iconic group of beautiful, truly experiential, department stores”.

“Creative thinking has been at the heart of everything we did together for nearly twenty years and sustainability is deeply embedded in the business,” she added.

I am proud to pass the baton to the new owners who are family businesses that take a long-term view.”

Selfridges sale
Selfridges was founded in 1908 by Harry Gordon Selfridge (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Selfridges has shrugged off the wider struggles faced by department store rivals such as House of Fraser in recent years as the luxury market has continued to strengthen.

Before the impact of the pandemic, Selfridges had doubled its profits and reported sales growth of more than 80% since being taken over by the Westons.

The family has received more than £580 million in dividends from the business over the past decade, but also injected investment into improving the store’s experience, with new concepts including an indoor skate park at its London store.

Central Group is a family-owned conglomerate that started in Bangkok but went global when the founder’s son, Samrit Chirathivat, opened Thailand’s first department store in 1956.

It now has 3,700 shops around the world, from supermarkets to electronics outlets, and department stores in Europe.

Christmas at Selfridges 2021
The retailer’s ‘Christmas of Dreams’ display for 2021 (Aaron Chown/PA)

Central Group’s non-executive director Vittorio Radice ran Selfridges between 1996 and 2003 and has been managing a department store in Italy since 2006.

Tos Chirathivat, executive chairman and CEO of Central, said: “It is a privilege to be acquiring Selfridges Group, including the flagship Oxford Street store, which has been at the centre of London’s most famous shopping street for over 100 years.”

Signa is a real estate and retail group founded by Rene Benko in 1999 and owns properties including the Hotel Bauer in Venice and half of New York’s Art Deco Chrysler Building.

Dieter Berninghaus, chairman of the executive board of Signa, said: “We are excited to be acquiring Selfridges Group in partnership with Central.

“Together we will work with the world’s leading architects to sensitively reimagine the stores in each location, transforming these iconic destinations into sustainable, energy-efficient, modern spaces, whilst staying true to their architectural and cultural heritage.”

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