French may buy iconic British toy store Hamleys

Ben Southwood
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HAMLEYS may be sold to French retail group Groupe Ludendo, according to reports yesterday.

Britain’s most famous toyshop is currently owned mainly by nationalised Icelandic bank Landsbanki, famous for running the Icesave deposit programme that defaulted in the financial crisis of late 2008.

Landsbanki acquired its stake from retail investment group Baugur in a debt-for-equity swap after the investment group went into administration in early 2009.

Baugur took control of 63.7 per cent of Hamleys in 2003, in a bid worth 254p a share, valuing the company at roughly £59m.

This was after a bidding war with rival investor Tim Waterstone, who had offered 230p but judged bids of around 254p a step too far.

Last year Landsbanki rejected a £60m offer for the retailer from Bahraini investment bank Global Banking Corporation.

The second most important stakeholder is Bracken, a private equity firm run by David “Spotty” Rowland, the property developer who left school at 16 and developed an empire centred on a property empire hundreds of millions of pounds.

Rowland, a tax exile living in Jersey, has been a major donor to the Tory party, giving close to £3m in the run up to the 2010 election.