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Westons Sell Iconic Retailer Selfridges to Thai-Austrian Group

The billionaire dynasty behind Selfridges & Co. has sold the British department store operator to a consortium led by Thai conglomerate Central Group.
Selfridges store.
Selfridges store. (Getty Images)

The billionaire dynasty behind Selfridges & Co. has sold the British department store operator to a consortium led by Thai conglomerate Central Group in one of the biggest UK retail deals for years.

The Weston family said Central Group, which is owned by the Chirathivats, one of Asia’s wealthiest families, and Signa Holding, of Austria, have formed a joint venture to buy the retail group, in a statement late Thursday London time. Central and Signa will own the chain in a 50-50 partnership.

No price was disclosed but Bloomberg previously reported the Weston family was considering a 4 billion-pound ($5.4 billion) approach and had appointed Credit Suisse as an adviser in June.

Selfridges, founded in 1908 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, is best-known for the giant store on London’s Oxford Street that has long been a mecca for fashion enthusiasts. There are also Selfridges stores in Manchester and Birmingham. The business was bought by the Canadian businessman Galen Weston for almost 600 million pounds in 2003 and has since expanded to include other department store chains, including Arnotts and Brown Thomas in Ireland, Holt Renfrew in Canada and de Bijenkorf in the Netherlands.

The sale to Central and Signa does not include the Holt Renfrew chain in Canada, which will remain with the Weston family.

Buyer Consortium

Central Group is a family-owned company involved in a host of industries from real estate and retailing to hospitality and restaurants. The Chirathivat family had the 20th largest fortune in Asia, worth $12.9 billion, according to a ranking compiled in November 2020 by Bloomberg News.

Signa was founded by retail and real estate entrepreneur Rene Benko, who owns or has stakes in some of the world’s most famous properties including the Chrysler building in New York.

Trophy assets in the UK have attracted interest even as retail business on major shopping streets suffers. Retail property values have declined in recent years, and the industry was recently hammered by the pandemic and the shift to online shopping.

Selfridges is among the most famous department stores in the world and has weathered the pandemic well. A considerable part of the asset’s value lies in the significant chunk of London real estate it owns on Oxford Street.

By Deirdre Hipwell

Learn more:

Can Selfridges Future-Proof the Department Store? Download the Case Study

Selfridges has attracted a bid from a potential buyer at a $5.7 billion valuation, the latest indication that the department store’s big bet on physical retail is paying off. But after a bruising pandemic year, the British chain could struggle to rebound amid a continued collapse in international tourism and a shift to online sales.

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State of Fashion 2023
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State of Fashion 2023