After receiving an unsolicited takeover bid for its British department store chain Selfridges, the Canadian Weston family is now trying to entice other interested parties to come forward through an auction.
Bidding starts at 4 billion pounds
Last month, it was revealed that Selfridges had received an unsolicited offer, but it is unclear who the prospective buyer was and how much they were willing to pay. The only thing that became public knowledge was that the interest was mainly related to the British and Irish branches of the group, consisting of Selfridges itself and Brown Thomas and Arnott in Ireland - not so much about its Dutch subsidiary De Bijenkorf.
This interest inspired the wealthy Weston family, who had bought Selfridges in 2003 for just under 700 million euros, to explore the entire market and approach investment bank Credit Suisse for this process. According to information from The Guardian, the bank is opting to entice other interested parties into making a bit through an auction. The bidding starts at 4 billion pounds or 4.7 billion euros.
In search of interested parties
The timing of the auction seems a bit odd: the Covid crisis has left deep wounds in the figures of luxury department stores such as Selfridges. Structurally, the sector is also struggling with increasing competition from online alternatives. According to The Guardian, Galen Weston - the son of W. Galen Weston, who died earlier this year - lacks the energy and inspiration to lift his father's department store empire out of the doldrums.
The question is who the interested buyers could be. The most plausible candidates are owners of Selfridges' industry peers, such as Thailand's Central Retail Group (which also owns KaDeWe in Berlin) or HBC (which already owns Saks Fifth Avenue). Middle Eastern investment funds, known for their deep pockets and appetite for luxury icons, may also come into play. One example is Qatar Investment Authority, which currently owns Harrods.