Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Waterstone in New Bid to Buy Back His Shops

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Waterstone in New Bid to Buy Back His Shops

Article excerpt


TIM WATERSTONE today revealed an audacious [pounds sterling]280 million plan to take over the bookshops chain he created 24 years ago.

Waterstone sold the chain to WH Smith for [pounds sterling]40 million in 1989, only to see it sold on to current owner HMV. He is writing directly to HMV shareholders, having had his proposal to the board rejected in February.

He said today that his offer, worth 70p a share, was vital to the revival of the ailing chain, which is currently deciding whether or not to relaunch its bid for rival Ottakar's once it is finally cleared by the Competition Commission next month.

Waterstone today claimed he had spoken to shareholders who control 70% of HMV's shares and, although he was not able to reveal the value of his bid until today, they had been broadly supportive.

He said: "It is now time to go public. It is vital that shareholders can see our proposal before HMV goes ahead with another bid for Ottakar's.

Waterstone's is already in a very weak position. Putting two weak businesses together would not be good move.

"This is a very fully priced offer for a business which faces major challenges to recapture the market share and operating margins that have been lost."

Waterstone is being backed by Lazards European Private Equity and has recruited former Penguin chief executive Anthony Forbes Watson as chief executive of the bidding company. It will not form part of his Chelsea Stores, which owns Daisy & Tom and Early Learning Centre.

Waterstone describved Forbes Watson as a "first-rate chief executive-designate who would swiftly rebuild damaged relationships with the publishing industry which would be vital to future success".

HMV itself saw off a 210p-a-share bid from private-equity group Permira earlier this year and was cleared to take over Ottakar's last month. …

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