Ex-Blenheim boss bounces back with Cementone buy

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The Independent Online
Lawrie Lewis, the Monte Carlo-based millionaire who founded Blenheim Exhibitions, marked his return to the London stock market yesterday when he acquired a 29.9 per cent stake in Cementone, a tiny chemicals company.

It is Mr Lewis's first large corporate move since he sold out of Blenheim in 1991. It also comes just weeks after he backed out of a consortium to buy Nottingham Forest football club at the last minute.

Speaking from Barcelona where his yacht is being re-fitted for next month's Monte Carlo Grand Prix, Mr Lewis said: "This is my first real day back at work since Blenheim five years ago. It's nice to be back in the driving seat."

Mr Lewis said he hoped to use Cementone as a vehicle to make acquisitions, which could include a football club: "I won't rule that out as the Nottingham Forest situation gave me a flavour for it. But there are not many opportunities left in the Premiership."

He said the proposal to buy the stake in Cementone from Vijay Mallya, the Indian entrepreneur who runs UB International, came while he was in the midst of the Forest negotiations.

Mr Lewis said he hoped to be nominated to the Cementone board next week. He would consider opportunities in the exhibitions sector if the right deal was available. Other possibilities could be in the media and leisure sectors.

Shares in Cementone soared 30 per cent to 60.5p on the news.

Mr Lewis's return to the market follows similar recent moves by former Blenheim chairman Neville Buch. Earlier this week Mr Buch emerged as a 21.9 per cent shareholder in Somic, a manufacturer of yarns and woven fabric. A few weeks previously he picked up a 29.9 stake in BBB, a small design firm he chairs. Mr Buch made pounds 25m from the sale of Blenheim to United News & Media in the pounds 600m deal last year.

Though Lawrie Lewis is resident in Monte Carlo it is thought he would like to spend more time here.

His interest in the Nottingham Forest takeover saga saw him briefly involved in two competing consortia bidding for control.