Friday 18 January 2019

Arnotts row settled for €40m

A ROW which has been simmering for the past three months over the ownership of Arnotts, Dublin's best known department store, was resolved yesterday after one of the two sides agreed to buy out the other.

Richard Nesbitt, the Arnotts chairman, agreed to pay a sum in excess of €40m for the 24.57pc of the company owned by the O'Connor family.

The €160m valuation of the retail group falls considerably short of the €200m valuation placed on it last May by the O'Connor family.

At that time, the family, led by Michael O'Connor, a former Arnotts chairman, said it wanted to to buy out the Nesbitt family, which owned the remaining 75pc of the company.

Many people interpreted the O'Connor family bid at the time as a ploy to force the Nesbitt family to buy them out.

Since its foundation in 1843 Arnotts has been a favourite of Dubliners. as well as its flaship Henry Street store, it owns Boyers on North Earl Street and the River Island outlet on Grafton Street.

It also owns a large portion of land between Dublin's Henry Street and Parnell Street, including the former Irish Independent building.

This land is earmarked for a €750m retail sheme which is one of the most ambitious ever planned for the city centre.

The first Nesbitt to join the company was Alexander Nesbitt, (Richard's great grandfather), an Antrim man who joined the store as an apprentice in 1867.

He rose through the ranks, ultimately becoming chairman in 1909.

The O'Connors invested in the company in the 1940s and have been strongly associated with the company.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Nesbitt said: "The O'Connor family has made a significant contribution over three generations in helping to make Arnotts a leading retail outlet in Ireland. I would like to thank Michael O'Connor and the O'Connor family for the service that they have given to the company.

In particular I would like to thank Conor O'Connor for his contribution to Arnotts as a board member of both the holding company and the retail subsidiary for the past three years.

Arnotts is entering into an exciting stage of its growth with the proposed development of the Northern Quarter and as a board we look forward to the exciting challenges and opportunities it will bring."

Mr O'Connor said:"The O'Connor family have been involved in Arnotts for 70 years. We are very happy with our decision to exit the company at this time and are happy that the deal has been concluded in a cordial and friendly manner. I wish the board and the staff of Arnotts every success in the coming years and commend the staff who have always shown great loyalty and dedication to Arnotts".

Yesterday's deal will bring to 30pc the share of the company directly owned by Mr Nesbitt. He also owns a majority stake in Art Acquisitions, which owns 60pc of the company.

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