Lord Ashcroft sells Restore stake for £40m

LORD Ashcroft, the billionaire former Conservative party treasurer, yesterday sold most of his stake in Aim-listed office services firm Restore for £40m.

Geraldton, his investment vehicle, reduced its 43.6 per cent holding to below three per cent in a placing to institutional investors yesterday morning.

Ashcroft is expected to have made a healthy profit from backing Restore at around 100p a share when it was struggling with debts and a high cost base. He sold the shares at 131p and they went on to close at 142.5p.

Chief executive Charles Skinner heaped praise on his departing shareholder: “I would like to express my appreciation for the support Geraldton has provided as a major shareholder, which has been key in transforming the company over the last four years.”

Ashcroft is one of the more intriguing figures in British politics, having built up a fortune as a turnaround specialist, initially in business and cleaning services. He has a substantial holding in Belize and briefly served as the country’s ambassador to the UN.

But he is best known in the UK for saving the Conservative party from bankruptcy following the 1997 election, earning a peerage in the process. He has since reduced his support to the Tories under David Cameron and has reinvented himself as an independent polling expert, spending substantial sums on enormous in-depth political studies. He also owns the world’s largest collection of Victoria Crosses.