Buy me out Phones4u boss pleads

 

BILLIONAIRE John Caudwell hopes that management at his Phones4u group will secure venture capital backing to buy him out of the business.

John Caudwell, owner of Phones4U

But he has ruled out selling to Charles Dunstone's rival Carphone Warehouse - or even allowing him access to the mobile phone seller's books.

'I would not like to see Phones4u sold to a trade buyer,' he told Financial Mail. 'Any rival would be bad from the employees' point of view.

'A private equity firm would see the growth story and hopefully understand that I have managed to put a top-class management team in place who are more than up to taking the company forward.'

Caudwell, 53, surprised the phone industry last week when he announced he was selling the company. Originally, it was expected that only Homecall, his consumer landline phone company, and Caudwell Communications, its sister firm serving business customers, would be sold.

But competition to attract buyers intensified when Centrica said it was putting a similar operation up for sale. Caudwell also claims to have had interest from potential buyers of the whole group.

He said: 'I have built the group. I have spent the past few years getting management right. Now I will devote my time to my charitable interests.'

Caudwell said charity work gave him emotional satisfaction. 'But I don't rule out a return to business,' he said. 'In fact, I am looking at taking the chairmanship of a leisure-related private company.'

Caudwell's management team of group managing director Tim Whiting, Mark Ryan, who heads the logistics arm of the business, and Mark Ormerod, who is in charge of the accessories distribution business, is expected to start holding talks with venture capital firms soon.

Analysts value the business up to £1.5bn. It had £2.25bn revenues and profits of £45m in 2003.