- The Guardian, Thursday 13 November 2008
Sir Philip Green, the retail billionaire, indicated yesterday he may move quickly to snap up struggling Moss Bros as he bought a 28.5% stake in the menswear retailer for £6.7m.
Shares in Moss Bros, whose brands include Moss, Cecil Gee and Hugo Boss, jumped 65% to 26.5p on the news. The block of 26.9m shares was sold at 24.95p each. Asked how long he would take to decide whether or not to launch a takeover offer for Moss Bros, Green said it would not be very long. "We'll have a look at it in the next couple of days. We'll have a conversation, we'll see where everyone is," he said.
The owner of Bhs and Topshop parent group Arcadia said he was attracted to Moss Bros because it is debt free and has no pension fund.
"We could maybe help develop the hire side," he said. "We're still to decide if we think there's enough that we can scale up and do something."
Moss Bros has suffered widening losses and axed its dividend in September. Menswear is always one of the first areas to be hit in a spending downturn.
Green bought the stake in Moss Bros from Baugur, the troubled Icelandic investment group, which abandoned plans to take over the menswear retailer. He said the deal was sealed swiftly. "I got a call about this 15 hours ago, they [Baugur] said 'this is what we want to do', I said 'fine we'll do it,' " he said.
The billionaire has also been looking at acquiring much of Baugur's debt, estimated at over £1bn.
This would give him considerable influence over the group's British fashion interests, which include Jane Norman, Whistles and a 49% share in Mosaic Fashions - the owner of Oasis, Principles, Karen Millen, Warehouse and Coast - as well as the supermarket chain Iceland and toy store Hamleys.
Baugur also owns stakes in British retailers Debenhams, Woolworths and French Connection. Green said: "It's not a shift in stance or anything. We're looking at all sorts of things. We've just got to find things we think we can create or add value."
Baugur ditched its £40m bid for Moss Bros in May, frustrated by the opposition from members of the founding Moss and Gee families. The family sold the stock to rival retailer Laura Ashley at more than Baugur's 42p a share bid.