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Brown Thomas and Arnotts for sale as part of €4.65bn Selfridges deal – report


Brown Thomas, Grafton street, Dublin. Photo: Arthur Carron.

Brown Thomas, Grafton street, Dublin. Photo: Arthur Carron.

Brown Thomas, Grafton street, Dublin. Photo: Arthur Carron.

Brown Thomas and Arnotts, two of Ireland’s iconic department stores, are believed to be for sale as part of a €4.65bn deal alongside British department store chain Selfridges.

The Weston family, owner of the Selfridges Group is believed to be considering the four-billion-pound deal following an approach from a potential buyer.

The Weston family has asked Credit Suisse to advise on the future of the business, which includes all Brown Thomas and Arnotts stores and the flagship emporium on London's Oxford Street, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the deliberations aren't yet public.

The holdings outside the UK and Ireland wouldn't be included in the proposed sale, according to the people familiar.

A spokesman for Selfridges declined to comment on the potential sale. Credit Suisse also declined to comment.

Discussions are at an early stage and may not lead to a transaction, the people familiar said. The possible sale was first reported by the real estate trade publication React News.

Founded in 1908 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the retailer is best-known for the giant store on Oxford Street that has long been a mecca for fashion enthusiasts.

There are also Selfridges stores in Manchester and Birmingham. The business was bought by the Canadian businessman Galen Weston for almost €700m in 2003 and has since expanded to include other department store chains Holt Renfrew in Canada and de Bijenkorf in the Netherlands.

The Weston family is formidable in the world of retailing and is split into two branches in Canada and the UK.

The Canadian wing controls Selfridges, while the UK side controls Associated British Foods Plc, the owner of Penneys.

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WG Galen Weston, the family patriarch, died this year. His children Galen and Alannah, who is chair of Selfridges Group, remain in the business. George Weston, a cousin, runs Associated British Foods.

The sale of Brown Thomas and Arnotts would mean uncertainty for the close to 900 workers employed across both chains.

The owners cut roughly 15pc of a 1,050 workforce in August last year across the two stores due to the effect of the pandemic on trade.

The managing director, Donald McDonald, said 2020 was “the toughest year we have experienced in recent times”.

The Selfridges Group also cut 450 jobs in the UK due to the impact on business.

Arnotts is a Dublin institution and founded and opened in 1843 by George Cannock and Andrew White on 12 Henry Street, before Sir John Arnott bought the entire company in 1865.

The Henry Street mainstay is over 300,000 square feet and is one of the commercial landmarks of the capital.

Brown Thomas operates stores on Dublin's Grafton Street and in Cork, Galway and Limerick.

It was founded in 1848 by Hugh Brown, with James Thomas joining him in business at 16 Grafton Street a year later.

The company was bought by Harry Gordon Selfridge in 1919 and operated as a Selfridges branch until 1933.