Landau invests in Clayform: Property developer made personal pounds 25m from sale of Imry

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The Independent Online
MARTIN LANDAU, the property developer who in 1989 taught George Soros a salutary lesson in timing, marked his return yesterday with a pounds 1.5m personal investment in Clayform, his latest stock market vehicle.

Last month shares in the debt- laden former owner of the Stead & Simpson shoe chain soared after he and his partner Anthony Bodie bought a 5 per cent stake for a third of the current share price.

His investment is part of a pounds 27m placing and open offer. It transforms a company that its managing director, Robert Ware, admitted had been brought to its knees by the property slump. The market gave the deal its seal of approval, pushing Clayform's shares up from 35p to 40p.

The degree of institutional support for Mr Landau, who sold Imry Merchant Developers for pounds 314m before its collapse, was underscored by the placing of 80.3 million shares at the market price of 35p. Recent rights issues in the property sector have been at sizeable discounts to ensure their success.

The acquisition of Imry in 1989 by a private consortium was a painful humiliation for one investor, George Soros, who stumped up several million pounds for his share of the company. His embarrassment was shared by Barclays Bank, which ended up controlling Imry after its collapse in 1991 and was forced to make its biggest single write-off.

The two-for-one placing triples the size of Clayform, providing a platform for a planned expansion via acquisitions of quoted companies and property portfolios. To mark a break with the last three loss-making years the company is changing its name to Development Securities.

As well as matching the share price, the 35p placing price was 5p higher than net assets of 30p. The proceeds will wipe out borrowings of pounds 28m, adding the final touch to a programme of disposals that have reduced the company's debts from pounds 130m in two years.

Mr Landau had been looking for a comeback vehicle for 18 months and looked closely at eight or nine others before settling on Clayform. They were dismissed because of tax or financial complications and Clayform was chosen only after it sold the Stead & Simpson chain in April.

Clayform bought Stead & Simpson for pounds 125m in 1989 just as Mr Landau was pulling out of the UK property market. In April the chain of 284 branches was handed over to its management for just pounds 1.

Not everyone will welcome his return from three years in the south of France, enjoying the pounds 25m he received for his 8 per cent stake in Imry. The Church Commissioners have less than charitable memories of an ill- starred speculative development they shared with Imry in Kent, which came to nought after the Government refused planning permission.