CALLING MORE SHOPPERS: Selfridges, the London department store and acquisition target, is drawing increasing interest each day. As reported, the company had set a deadline of May 6 for all bids, but was still considering offers arriving after that date.

Canadian billionaire Galen Weston today is expected to make an offer of $913 million, reported the Sunday Times of London (dollar figures have been converted from the pound at current exchange rates). Industry sources said Weston, owner of Canadian luxury retailer Holt Renfrew and Brown Thomas in Dublin, is expected to be named the preferred bidder by Merril Lynch, the investment house working on the sale. Weston could not be reached for comment at press time.

Late last week, the Formula One motor racing boss Bernie Ecclestone emerged as a financial backer for Robert Tchenguiz, the Iranian property tycoon who is reported to be putting together a bid worth between $880 million and $928 million on behalf of his Rotch Property Group. London’s Evening Standard newspaper reported that Ecclestone has offered the tycoon $160 million in cash toward his bid.

Ecclestone could not be reached for comment, while Tchenguiz did not return phone calls.

Meanwhile, Simon and David Reuben, who trade in metals and property, have reportedly reconfirmed their interest in bidding for Selfridges, but it is unclear whether they have come through yet with a firm offer. A spokesman for the Reuben brothers, who own about 100 buildings in the U.K., confirmed their interest. “The idea is to succeed,” he said. “When the Reubens start something, they want to succeed.”

According to the Reuben brothers’ Web site, the duo is looking at “venture capital-type” investments in businesses that require a capital injection or additional management expertise.

A Selfridges spokeswoman said the company had no further comment on the auction process.

Sources say that other companies and individuals with varying degrees of interest include Dickson Poon, the Hong Kong-based owner of Harvey Nichols, and Delancey, the property company run by Jamie Ritblat. None could be reached for comment at press time.

It is understood that so far only two bidders — Tom Hunter, the Scottish entrepreneur, and Peter Williams, the chief executive of Selfridges who is reportedly putting together a management buyout — made the May 6 deadline set out by Merrill Lynch. — Samantha ContiNO JOY FOR AUSTIN REED: Austin Reed, the classic men’s and women’s wear brand that was the focus of bidders’ interest over the past six weeks, is no longer for sale. The company confirmed that it has withdrawn from all meetings with potential suitors because none of the approaches received was up to par. The company said shareholders’ best interests were best served by continuing to operate as an independent company. The company confirmed at the end of March that it had received an all-cash offer from the Glasgow-based retailer, Slater Menswear. This led to a 26 percent jump in its share price and generated more outside interest in the company, with approaches tipped to include the Italian fashion group, Marzotto, as well as Richard Thompson, the entrepreneur who earlier this year bought — and then sold — the Jaeger and Viyella brands. — S.C.

DAILY BREAD: It wasn’t so long ago that the Fendi Baguette was the fashion must-have of the moment, but already the Rome-based company is putting out a limited edition of 100 vintage models. The bags, in everything from denim to painted suede, will be available for only 10 days this month in its Rome, Milan, Venice, Florence, Bologna, London, Paris and Cannes boutiques. Prices range from $400 to $3,000 and part of the revenues will be donated to the charity, Doctors Without Borders. — Luisa Zargani

FULL STEAM AHEAD: With a fuller figure in mind, the fast-moving Spanish brand, Zara, has upped its sizing to a European 46 — the equivalent of a 16 in the U.S. The expanded sizes will affect roughly 20 percent of the women’s line including outerwear, skirts, jackets, dresses, shirts and knits, said a Zara spokesman. The roomier merchandise is available for summer in Zara’s global network of 550 stores in 41 countries. In other news, parent company Inditex opened a giant distribution center for Zara north of the Spanish capital in Zaragoza last week. In its final phase, the so-called Plataforma Europa’s operating space will total 68 million square feet with distribution capacity of 80,000 garments per hour. Whew! But how else to accommodate Inditex’s grueling modus operandi, which demands new product shipments twice weekly, delivered within 35 hours? — Barbara BarkerCOME SALE AWAY: On the heels of the liberalization of Germany’s stringent shopping hours, the German government is now aiming to amend its restrictive “Law Against Unfair Competition.” Last week, the German cabinet approved proposals that will make it possible for retailers to hold large-scale sales whenever and wherever they want. The current law limits them to specified 10-day end-of-season periods in August and January; clearance sales due to renovation and/or going out of business, and anniversary celebrations every 25 years. The amendment must first be passed by the German Parliament and then voted on by its upper house. The German Retailers Association isn’t thrilled with the proposed amendment, expressing concern that end-of-season sales will no longer be held at the same time and will therefore lose their public relations value. “The retail industry doesn’t receive as much free advertising during any other time of the year,” a German retail official lamented. Newspapers traditionally run stories about the sales during the period so “when every store and every region runs sales at different times, the advertising effect will be kaput.” — Melissa Drier

ROYAL FLUSH: The Sultan bought the Prince. The London-based Dorchester Group Ltd., the hotel property and management company owned by The Brunei Investment Agency, has signed a binding agreement to purchase the prestigious Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan for $300 million from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. The five-star, 404-room hotel is a favorite with fashion editors and retailers, and celebrities and VIPs from Woody Allen to Queen Elizabeth. The completion of the transaction is expected at the end of June. — L.Z.

DIAL-UP STYLE: Cellular phones are not only fashion accessories, they’re now a source of fashion information. At least that’s the case in France, where fashion Web site Themode.tv this week launches a service bringing its latest news to mobile phones. Themode.tv uses Bouygues Telecom’s I-MODE, a mobile Internet service, to relay the latest style information to Bouygues Telecom users, including the best moments from fashion shows, tidbits on new clothing and accessories and tips for shows, restaurants and hotels. — Emilie Marsh

SIXTYSOMETHING: Last month, the hip Italian jeanswear brand, Miss Sixty, christened its first freestanding store in Moscow — bringing its international reach to 66 countries. “Russian fashion victims have got a chance to look both stylish, sexy and not too posh and serious. Now, it is one of the main trends in the local fashion market,” said Tatiana Tretiakova, the marketing manager for the Podium chain of boutiques that had sold Miss Sixty in its multibrand stores, but finally decided to give it a full showcase. The Russian market for trendy jeanswear is growing fast. In June, Diesel is opening its fourth Moscow store on glamorous Tverskaya Street. — Olga Zaretskaya

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