Thailand’s Central Group Nearing Selfridges Acquisition


Thai department store operator Central Group is moving closer to acquiring U.K. retailer Selfridges from Canada’s billionaire Weston family, three people familiar with the situation have told the Financial Times.

The Weston family has been aiming to sell Selfridges for about 4 billion pounds ($5.32 billion), two of the people told FT, and a deal may be completed in the next several weeks. The Westons have owned Selfridges for almost 20 years; the family acquired the brand in 2003 for 598 million pounds (about $796 million).

The retailer has a flagship store on London’s Oxford Street, as well as operations across the U.K., Ireland and the Netherlands.

Central Group is controlled by the billionaire Chirathivat family and is the largest department store chain in Thailand. It owns European department stores including Germany’s KaDeWe, Italy’s Rinascente, Swiss group Globus and Denmark’s Illum.

“This is one of those one-of-a-kind assets that trade maybe once in a generation,” said a person close to the talks in the FT report.

Credit Suisse is helping the Westons sell Selfridges after the company got an unsolicited offer earlier this year. Central Group is being advised by Citi in the discussion with Selfridges.

Weston family patriarch W Galen Weston died in April and Paul Kelly, who had run the Selfridges group since the Westons acquired it, moved into another role in the holding company two years ago.

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Harry Selfridge, who founded Selfridges in 1909, created a shopping destination that was highlighted by the experience of being in the store more than about the specific products it sells. This approach was counter to department stores that focused on bringing convenience to shoppers by having everything they need in one place.

In addition to making goods more accessible for consumers, Selfridge equipped his stores with things that made shoppers want to visit and then spend more of their time there — cushy chairs, restaurants, reading rooms, even a “Silence Room” where tired shoppers could relax and kick back.