11/9/2005 12:00:00 AM
Caudwell to quit after selling group
John Caudwell’s empire is on the block, with bankers seeking to sell the business as a whole.
The move, as tipped by Mobile three months ago (5 August), was announced to staff as Mobile went to press with the group’s senior managers called to a dawn conference call where John Caudwell revealed his decision to sell the business.
Managers were briefed that Caudwell wanted to sell the whole Group as a going concern, and preferably to a buyer based outside of the UK.
The news that Caudwell plans to sell the business as a whole has come as a relief to many managers, who have feared a break up of the Group’s closely interlinked businesses.
Many UK-based companies, including The Carphone Warehouse, have already expressed an interest in elements of the business to augment their own.
However, some have expressed doubts that a buyer could be found for the whole Group; sources close to the matter have claimed that the Group’s core businesses would work best sold together. According to sources, the most closely linked or interdependent elements of the business are handset distributor 20:20 Logistics, accessory and airtime distributor Dextra/4u and retail chain Phones 4u.
Arch-rival Carphone’s UK chief, Andrew Harrison, said: ‘After the sale of Singlepoint this was always on the cards. What were the possible outcomes of the strategic review? We’ll IPO it because we’re so confident? We’ll keep it? Or we’ll get out as fast as we can? You look at any business that comes up [as a potential buyer]. If you look at the whole of it there would be too much duplication. I can’t see any buyer for the [whole] of it.’
A venture capital group could well be the best option for Caudwell, a well-placed source told Mobile: ‘Certain businesses are making some money, but they tend to make it on the back of the other companies through inter-company trading. If you’re a PLC that wants to present its results to the City showing growth in all the businesses on a quarterly basis, then it could be difficult.
John Caudwell told Mobile: ‘My contribution is nowhere near as significant or important as it was over the years. That gives me the peace of mind that I could leave the Caudwell Group to a new purchaser to continue for another 20 years, what I’ve done over the last 20.
He added: ‘There’s been significant interest in the whole group. Why wouldn’t there be? It’s a very strong proposition in its entirety - it makes sense to buy the Group. From my point-of-view it ensures the maximum consistency and gives the maximum chance of having no effect on employees.’