Dublin department store Arnotts has been bought in a deal thought to be worth more than £70m after an ongoing battle over its ownership.
Irish businessman Noel Smyth and his firm Fitzwilliam Finance Partners, which owned half the business, acquired its rival private equity firm Apollo Global Management’s 50% stake to secure the deal.
Both sides had been vying to buy the other out for more than a year. However, Apollo’s partner, Bluegem Capital, owner of Liberty in London, pulled out earlier this month. The decision left the way clear for Fitzwilliam to take full control of Arnotts.
Smyth is backed by the UK-based billionaire Livingstone brothers through their company, London & Regional. He was previously backed by Wittington Investments, the holding company for both The Weston Group and Selfridges Group, but it is understood the firm backed out of the deal at the end of 2014.
Fitzwilliam Finance Partners said it will “continue plans to develop Arnotts as an iconic retail destination and look for opportunities to develop the adjacent property portfolio surrounding the store as market conditions continue to improve”.
A spokesman for Arnotts told Drapers the board of directors welcomed the decision on the future ownership of the business and saw it as a “significantly positive milestone” for Arnotts.
“We are happy with the outcome. Things have been on hold for a long time. It’s positive for the company to have one owner so we are able to move forward. We have some clarity on direction finally, when the two sides were debating we were not getting anywhere,” he added.
The two sides are both thought to have been keen on taking full control of the business, but it appears that Apollo has agreed to sell their portion of the business.
A spokesman for Apollo said they believed “this is a positive outcome for all stakeholders in Arnotts, which should allow for a reduction in the company’s existing debt burden and further investment and growth”.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, it is believed Apollo would have refused less than €100m (£72m).
Apollo bought a 50% stake in Arnotts from the liquidators of Anglo Irish Bank in December 2013. Fitzwilliam’s offer to buy the remaining half from Ulster Bank was cleared by the Irish Competition Authority in May 2014.
Last month Arnotts reported an operating profit before interest, tax and exceptional items of €2.5m (£1.8m) for the year to January 26, 2014. It made a €2.9m (£2m) loss the previous year. Sales were up 2.5% to €120m (£86m).