Selfridges, the iconic British luxury department store, has been sold to a joint venture between Thailand’s Central Group and Austrian real estate group Signa Holding. The deal, reportedly worth £4 billion ($5.4 billion), marks a significant expansion for the Thai conglomerate, which is controlled by the billionaire Chirathivat family. Central Group has been operating for over 75 years in Thailand and is the largest department store chain in the country.
The acquisition of Selfridges adds to Central and Signa’s collection of high-end retailers, including Rinascente in Italy, Illum in Denmark, Switzerland’s Globus, and The KaDeWe Group in Germany and Austria. The joint venture aims to become a major global player in the department store sector.
Founded in 1908 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the Selfridges Group was previously owned by the Canadian billionaire Weston family. The group owns 18 department stores, including a historic property on London’s Oxford Street shopping district. The sale comes after the death of W. Galen Weston, who had spearheaded the purchase of Selfridges in 2003.
Central Group, the retail flagship of the Thai Chirathivat family, has been expanding globally from its base in Thailand, where it owns numerous department stores and malls. The acquisition of Selfridges is seen as a valuable trophy for the group as it continues to grow internationally.
The deal includes Selfridges’ four UK stores – in London, Birmingham, and two in Manchester – as well as Brown Thomas and Arnotts in Ireland and De Bijenkorf in the Netherlands. It also covers about £2bn of the chain’s prime property assets, including the freehold of its listed Oxford Street flagship store in London.
Stefano Della Valle, CEO of Central and Signa’s European luxury department store group, will lead Selfridges Group, while Selfridges’ current managing director Anne Pitcher will be part of the team until the end of this year to help with the transition.
Despite the challenges faced by department stores due to the pandemic, Selfridges managed to generate a gross profit of approximately £367 million in the year ending January 29, 2022. The acquisition of Selfridges by Central Group and Signa Holding is expected to provide a much-needed boost to the ailing Oxford Street shopping district, as the new owners plan to invest in the company and potentially build a luxury hotel alongside the site.