Luxury department store group Selfridges is set to be sold to a Thai conglomerate for up to £4bn.
The UK retailer owns 25 outlets, including a huge flagship store in London’s Oxford Street, and branches in Dublin, the Netherlands and Canada.
Selfridges’ owner, the Weston family, agreed sale terms with Central Group in the last few days, according to the Times, which first reported the deal.
Selfridges was founded in 1908 by US retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge.
It has been owned by the billionaire Westons for 18 years.
The Weston family put the chain up for sale in June, a few months after the death of Galen Weston, who oversaw the move to take the department store private in 2003.
The family control Selfridges through Wittington Investments Ltd, in Canada, which is separate from the UK arm of the same name that owns a large stake in Primark-owner Associated British Foods.
Central Group is a family-owned conglomerate that started in Bangkok but went global when the founder’s son, Samrit Chirathivat, opened Thailand’s first department store in 1956.
It now has 3,700 shops around the world, from supermarkets to electronics outlets, and department stores in Europe.
Central Group’s non-executive director Vittorio Radice ran Selfridges between 1996 and 2003 and has been managing a department store in Italy since 2006. His role includes responsibility for expansion in Europe.
A division of the group, Central Retail, sparked confusion about whether a Selfridges sale had fallen through when it issued a short stock exchange announcement that it was “not currently involved” with a deal.
However, it is understood the Westons, one of Canada’s richest families, are in talks with a different arm of the giant Central Group company.
It is unclear why the family has decided to sell, although like many retailers the business has suffered during lockdown and the absence of high-end tourists in city centres.
The business had sales of almost £2bn in the year to February 2020, but when more recent accounts are published they are likely to show a big fall.
Selfridges declined to comment, and Central Group could not be reached.