Archie Norman joins a takeovers' gang of four

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ARCHIE NORMAN, the chairman of the Asda supermarket group, has joined forces with a heavyweight band of property and retail entrepreneurs in a new venture to hunt out underperforming property and retail assets.

Mr Norman and three other directors have created a private company called Maybeat, which yesterday launched a reverse takeover of Knutsford, a small Manchester leather firm quoted on the Alternative Investment Market. Knutsford will acquire Maybeat for pounds 4.95m and the business will then be turned into a takeover vehicle.

Mr Norman's partners are Nigel Wray and Nick Leslau who have run a string of property companies including Burford, and Julian Richer, head of hi- fi retailer Richer Sounds. Mr Richer was hired as a consultant to Asda several years ago to provide advice on improving customer service.

The four directors will emerge from the deal with a 90 per cent holding in the new group.