Wednesday 21 February 2018

Brown Thomas owners to control Arnotts with US-based Apollo

Roisin Burke and Ronald Quinlan

THE owners of Brown Thomas and major US investment fund Apollo look set to take control of Arnotts.

The future of one of the country's best-loved and most iconic retail names was being heatedly thrashed out last night, with a US investment fund giant said to have won the battle to buy €230m bank debt from IBRC's special liquidators.

Apollo, a massive investment fund with a strong background in retail acquisitions, was being named by three sources close to the process as the winning bidder for what would amount to control of half of Arnotts.

Yesterday, developer Noel Smyth was told that his company's bid, in a team-up with the Weston retail dynasty and Smyth's Fitzwilliam Finance, had been unsuccessful.

The Westons own Brown Thomas as well as the rest of the loans linked to Arnotts, which were sold by Ulster Bank last month.

But while the situation is still in flux, the Irish Independent understands that the Westons, who also own Selfridges in London, may not be entirely out of the running, and the possibility of a joint venture of some kind with Apollo was being mooted last night.

Apollo declined to comment on the process and IBRC's special liquidator did not respond when contacted.

The Westons and Fitzwilliam Finance have already bought Arnotts' Ulster Bank debt.

Meanwhile, Arnotts management, who were bidding with British retail investor Meyer Berman, have not been told whether their bid has succeeded.

It's believed that the price paid for Arnotts' Anglo debt, being sold off as part of the €25bn liquidation of IBRC, was in the region of €45m. The sale of this debt and the Ulster Bank debt is understood to have priced Arnotts at between €75m and €80m.

Noel Smyth and the Westons recently bought Arnotts' Ulster Bank loans and were heavy favourites to also snap up the Anglo debt and take control of the department store name, with ambitious plans for its development and expansion.

Apollo Global Management, a New York-based alternative asset management fund, bought MBNA's former facility in Leitrim, securing 250 jobs.

Apollo has a history of investing in Ireland and has a track record of investment in retail.

Irish Independent

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