LONDON — Hell hath no fury like a founder scorned — especially a British retail entrepreneur.
Shares in Ted Baker jumped nearly 15 percent to 9.60 pounds in late afternoon trading Monday following media reports that Ray Kelvin was looking to back a private equity buyout of Ted Baker, the company he founded more than 30 years ago and left under a cloud earlier this year.
The shares closed up 14 percent at 9.51 pounds.
Kelvin is Ted Baker’s single largest shareholder with 35 percent of the stock and any investor looking to take over the company would need him on board.
As reported in March, Kelvin resigned as chief executive officer amid an investigation into allegations of misconduct and inappropriate physical contact with staff. His resignation followed a voluntary leave of absence after the company said it was investigating Kelvin and Ted Baker’s h.r. reporting policies.
Kelvin denies all allegations of misconduct, and it was clear from the get-go that the company investigation, and the widespread media attention it attracted, was a bruising experience for the quirky entrepreneur.
When he resigned in early March, Kelvin said it had been a difficult decision. “Given that Ted Baker has been my life and soul for over 30 years, I’ve decided that the right thing to do is to step away from Ted and allow the business to focus on being the outstanding brand it is, so it can face 2019 with fresh energy and renewed spirit.”
The Mail on Sunday ran a speculative story saying that Kelvin “is understood to have considered” making a swoop on the Ted Baker business. The paper cited market sources who said “it is not known” if any attempt to buy the business is progressing, or whether advisers have been appointed.
A spokesman for Kelvin declined to comment.
One industry source said Monday that given Kelvin’s abrupt departure and his emotional ties to the business, investors consider Ted Baker to be a takeover target, and they need him on board to make a move.
That source suggested the takeover impulse may likely be coming from the investment community rather than from Kelvin himself.
A separate source suggested Kelvin himself might try to take back the brand: “Ted Baker is Kelvin’s baby, and to be honest the accusations against him have been exaggerated. If he can secure the financing a buyout is definitely possible.”
In April, Ted Baker confirmed company veteran Lindsay Page as ceo. Page had been serving as acting ceo since December after Kelvin took a leave of absence. As reported, David Bernstein will continue as executive chairman until a new non-executive chairman is appointed.
If Kelvin does throw his weight behind a takeover, it would resemble the scenario at fellow British high-street retailer Superdry.
In April, Superdry cofounder Julian Dunkerton reclaimed his position as ceo of the retailer after a vicious battle with the board.
Top management, whom Dunkerton had accused of damaging sales and profits, quit as soon as Dunkerton stepped back into the ceo role with backing from a small majority of shareholders.
Dunkerton, who in the past had served as Superdry’s ceo and a board member in charge of product development, quit the brand in early 2018 following a sharp decline in Superdry’s share price.
At the time, he blamed management for cutting him out of the design process and accused the former ceo Euan Sutherland of poor management.