Kirkham adds pounds 74m to fortune with DFS sale

Graham Kirkham, the fabulously wealthy chairman and founder of DFS Furniture, added pounds 74m to his fortune yesterday with the successful placing of 22 per cent of the company he started in an upstairs room in 1969.

Mr Kirkham flagged the placing a week ago, when the company reported record profits for the year to July, but the scale of the share sale was larger than expected. He had been expected to raise about pounds 60m from the sale of a third of his 48 per cent holding in DFS.

He said: "Since the flotation of DFS, I have had numerous approaches from shareholders and potential new investors asking whether I and my family would sell further shares. I remain as executive chairman and my commitment to the company is as strong as it ever has been."

Last week he assured investors that he had no intention of diluting his interest in the company by spending his money on other business ventures.

The share sale, which allowed existing investors to boost their holdings and also brought new shareholders onto the register, means Mr Kirkham has now taken more than pounds 200m out of the business since floating DFS in 1993. He and family trusts still hold a 30 per cent stake, worth more than pounds 100m.

Strong demand for the shares allowed broker NatWest Wood Mackenzie to place the shares at 328p, a discount of only 2 per cent toWednesday's closing price of 335p. News of the deal pushed the shares 11p higher yesterday to 346p.

Mr Kirkham said the placing was larger than forecast because of the strong demand from institutions frustrated at their inability to buy into the company, which has shrugged off the stagnant housing market to produce strong profits growth.

Last week DFS announced a special dividend of 10p a share, in addition to a 15 per cent rise in the ordinary payout to 8.3p, as a way of reducing the company's fast growing cash pile.

Mr Kirkham has undertaken to sell no more shares for at least 12 months without the consent of Schroders, which underwrote the latest placing.

The son of a Yorkshire miner, who left school without any O levels, Mr Kirkham has become a serious art collector since joining the ranks of British richest people.

He celebrated DFS's flotation by buying a Gainsborough painting, Peasants going to market. He said that he felt it was appropriate.

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