Irish

Saturday 26 July 2014

Hundreds of jobs to be saved as Arnotts sales gets go-ahead

John Mulligan

Published 28/05/2014|02:30

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The Brown Thomas owner will purchase a 50 per cent share in Arnotts
The Brown Thomas owner will purchase a 50 per cent share in Arnotts

HUNDREDS of jobs have been secured as Brown Thomas owner Galen Weston and developer Noel Smyth have secured the green light to purchase a 50pc stake in Dublin department store Arnotts.

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It emerged last December that the Canadian businessman, whose family also owns upmarket British retailer Selfridges and controls Primark owner Associated British Foods, had teamed up with solicitor turned developer Noel Smyth to buy a €140m tranche of Arnotts' loans that were being offloaded by Ulster Bank.

They used a company called Fitzwilliam Finance Partners to bid for the Arnotts loans.

The Competition Authority yesterday approved the acquisition by two separate buyers which secures more than 500 jobs at Arnotts and over 100 more at Boyers.

"Based on the evidence and information obtained through this investigation, the authority has formed the view that the proposed transaction will not lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the State," said the watchdog.

Develop

The Weston Group has previously said it has plans to develop the 170-year-old Arnotts store and its "peripheral properties".

The other half of Arnotts is now owned by New York-based investment firm Apollo Management – which is advised here by former Bank of Ireland boss Brian Goggin.

Its acquisition of €230m worth of Arnotts loans from Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) was also given the go-ahead yesterday.

There are no further details at this point on Mr Weston's plans for Arnotts, however, he would have to secure agreement from investment firm Apollo for any development.

There has been speculation that Apollo and Fitzwilliam Finance have been keen to buy each other out in order to secure full control of Arnotts.

IBRC and Ulster Bank seized control of Arnotts in 2010 when loans attached to a massive planned development of property surrounding the department store were written off.

Mr Weston is executive chairman of George Weston, one of North America's largest food processing and distribution groups. The company also owns Canadian supermarket Loblaw.

Mr Weston met his Irish wife, Hilary Frayne, when he moved to Dublin shortly after graduating from the University of Western Ontario, to build up the Powers supermarket chain that later traded as Quinnsworth.

He married the former model in 1966 and they acquired an interest in Brown Thomas in the 1970s, eventually acquiring full ownership.

Irish Independent

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