Carpet king nets pounds 15m for property group pounds 15.6m for CW Harr is

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The Independent Online
Lord Harris of Peckham, the carpet king, and his family have made pounds 15.6m from the sale of their private retail property company. The tycoon has sold C W Harris Properties to Pillar Property, the quoted property investor that specialises in retail warehouse parks and shopping centres.

Over the past three years Lord Harris has built a property portfolio consisting mainly of out-of-town retail freeholds. CW Harris owns five retail warehouse schemes and a high street shop in St Albans. The warehouses are in Luton, Orpington, Dartford, Carmarthen and Preston and have a total floor-space of 350,000 square feet and an annual rent income of pounds 3.5m.

Pillar is paying for the deal with 80 per cent cash (pounds 12.4m) and 20 per cent of shares (pounds 3.2m) valued at 231p a share. Lord Harris's family has agreed not to sell the shares for at least six months.

Pillar has been built up by chairman Raymond Mould and his colleague Patrick Vaughan. The duo came to fame when they founded the Arlington group of business parks in the 1980s, before selling up to British Aerospace. They formed Pillar in 1991 and floated it three years later. This latest deal brings Pillar's total number of retail parks to 20.

Lord Harris said yesterday that he had "every confidence in the management of Pillar and the future success of the company." He said he was pleased he and his family would be holding 1.2 million Pillar shares.

All the warehouse developments sold to Pillar are fully let to tenants like Lord Harris's Carpetright group, as well as Currys, Halfords, Homebase, MFI and B&Q. The average unexpired lease length is 18 years.

The investment properties of Harris Properties are valued at pounds 49.2m and the net assets at 30 June 1997 stood at pounds 25.9m, which included pounds 11.7m of loans which will be repaid on completion of the deal.

Mr Mould commented: "The additions of these properties to Pillar's already substantial retail park portfolio underlines our strategy of investing in a sector which continues to demonstrate well above average growth."

The deal also means yet another fortune for Lord Harris, the self-made millionaire who sold his first carpet at the age of 13 in Peckham market.

He went on to build a nationwide carpet shop chain Harris Queensway which he sold at the height of the 1980s boom. But he couldn't keep away from the action and founded Carpetright in 1988 which itself boasts nearly 300 stores. What became Lowndes Queensway went bust at the beginning of the recession, something Lord Harris bitterly regretted.