Bluebird boss nets pounds 2.3m from shares

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The Independent Online
Torquil Norman, chairman of Bluebird Toys, cashed in on the recent surge in the toy manufacturer's shares, raising pounds 2.3m yesterday by selling two-thirds of his remaining stake. The disposal follows a larger sale of 1.2 million shares a year ago.

Mr Norman, 62, said at the time of the last share sale that he intended to wind down his interest following the appointment of a new chief executive. "I agreed with the board that once the new chief executive settled in I would reduce my stake. I have death duties and my children to consider."

Although the disposal had been flagged some time ago, its timing is bound to raise eyebrows, coming days after the announcement of a deal with Walt Disney and Mattel, which could transform the company's profitability. The sale occurred on the same day that it emerged that Rhode Island-based Hasbro had acquired a 6.7 per cent stake in Bluebird.

Since the announcement of the Disney deal, which sees Bluebird designing and marketing a range of miniature collectable play-sets for the US entertainment giant, its shares have soared, rising 97p to 367p in one day last week.

The jump was the latest in a remarkable run that has seen Bluebird's shares rise from a low of 7p five years ago as the company flourished on the success of its Mighty Max and Polly Pocket range of miniature characters. They closed yesterday at 358p, down 2p.

Part of Bluebird's impressive share price performance has stemmed from bid speculation following the interest in British toy companies last year from large American manufacturers. Both JW Spear, maker of Scrabble, and Waddington, the Monopoly company, were snapped up.

Hasbro played down its interest in Bluebird this week, saying that it had "no present intention" of making a bid for the company. Bluebird and Hasbro are working jointly to develop new products.

Graham Kirkham, chairman and founder of DFS, the furniture retailer, raised pounds 74m earlier this week selling 22 per cent of his company's shares.