The British luxury department store Selfridges is about to change hands.

According to British press reports, the Canadian owner family Weston is negotiating a sale of the Selfridges group for around four billion pounds (4.8 billion euros).

The favorite for the takeover is a Thai billionaire family around the retail magnate Tos Chirathivat, who took over KaDeWe in Berlin, Oberpollinger in Munich and Alsterhaus in Hamburg six years ago.

However, his company sent a report to the Bangkok Stock Exchange on Friday denying reports about a transaction that had already been decided.

The sale of one of the UK's most important luxury department stores is in the air.

Philip Plickert

Business correspondent based in London.

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Christoph Hein

Business correspondent for South Asia / Pacific based in Singapore.

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Selfridges, headquartered on Oxford Street, is a British institution, not quite as ultra-classy as Harrods and not as venerable as Fortnum & Mason, but with an equally exquisite range and a youthful touch.

The huge building on Oxford Street with a Greek-antique-looking column facade, inside with white pilasters, flowers and crystal decorations, was once described by the magazine "Vogue" as a "modern temple for the worshipers of shopping".

Tons of perfume and cosmetics, fashion, delicacies and toys (right up to giant teddy bears and crystal-studded children's cars for thousands of pounds) can be bought there.

Founded in 1908 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the department store has had an eventful history. The indebted founder gave it up in World War II, and later bought it in 2003 by Canadian billionaire Galen Weston for 598 million pounds at the time. Six months ago, the Westons started an auction-style sales process for the department store group and put a price tag of four billion pounds on it. Selfridges owns 25 department stores worldwide, in addition to the main store on Oxford Street, shopping centers in Birmingham, Manchester and Dublin, De Bijenkorf in Amsterdam and the luxury department store chain Holt Renfrew in Canada.

The Westons hired Credit Suisse to act as advisor on the sale.

In addition to the Thai Central Group, the sovereign wealth fund from Qatar and a luxury department store chain from Hong Kong are said to have been interested, but the Thai billionaire seems to be the favorite for the takeover, which could take weeks.

The Central Retail Corporation denied reports in the "Times", "Brand Inside" and the "Financial Times" that the takeover was as good as decided.

In a letter to the head of the Bangkok Stock Exchange, she wrote that she was "not currently involved with the reported transaction".

Top department stores around the world 

Still, the takeover would suit Tos Chirathivat well. After he took over the Berlin KaDeWe in 2015, he put a ranking for the European metropolises in an interview: London is ahead, then Paris follows, in third place Berlin. Now, six years later, he could approach his personal top spot in London. The billion dollar businessman from the Far East continues to work on the vision of buying top department stores around the globe. Not only in Thailand does his family run luxury houses with the Central Embassy and Central Chidlom in Bangkok. In Switzerland they hold the Migros subsidiary Globus together with department store king René Benko, in Copenhagen the Illum, in Milan the Rinascente.

The 58-year-old Tos Chirathivat is estimated to have a fortune of nearly twelve billion dollars, making it the fourth richest Thai. For almost a hundred years and three generations, his family forged the Central Group, a conglomerate like so many in Asia, which is based around a real estate and department store group. Tos Chirathivat is the grandson of the founder, who, as an immigrant from China, opened his first kiosk with a café in the royal city of Bangkok in 1927 for the equivalent of ten euros. With three wives he had 26 children. His eldest son Samrit then founded Thailand's first department store 30 years later.

Today the Central Group has more than 3000 shops, markets and shopping miles. And the Chirathivats have connected to the Chinese digital group JD.com via the Internet platform JD Central. The founder's 220 descendants are among the top of Thai society, including actors with millions of followers on Instagram and a rap musician. The culmination of their trading business so far was the IPO of the Central Retail Corp division. 2020. The family achieved $ 2.5 billion. It has not yet been decided whether Selfridges will really go to the Thai company. There are some indications that this is the case. A few months ago, the family brought the Italian manager Vittorio Radice to the board, who two decades ago devised the radical conversion of the London department store into a modern “temple of luxury”.

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