£1.9bn Chelsfield buyout gives Reubens 35% stake

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The Independent Online

The billionaire investors David and Simon Reuben have become the largest shareholders in Chelsfield under plans to take the property development company private in a deal worth £1.9bn.

The Reuben brothers have paid £146.4m for a 35 per cent stake in Chelsfield, the owner of Wentworth golf course and the developer of White City in west London.

The move comes after Chelsfield's founder and chairman, Elliott Bernerd, finally pushed through a plan to de-list its shares. Mr Bernerd, who has been trying to take Chelsfield private for a year, raised his offer to 320p a share.

Two earlier bids at 305p per share were rejected as too low by Chelsfield's independent directors. Under the latest recommended offer, Mr Bernerd and his consortium of bidders have agreed to accept 10p less in cash than other shareholders to push the deal through.

The investors, who make up 33 per cent of the shareholder base, include Mr Bernerd and his family, Benny Steinmetz, the diamond magnate, and the Saudi investment company Olayan Group. The consortium also includes the Bank of East Asia and David Li, its chairman and chief executive.

The arrangement means Mr Bernerd personally will take £3.4m less than if he had accepted the terms on offer to institutional shareholders. But he will receive about £40m in cash from selling nearly half of his 12 per cent family stake in the company.

Mr Bernerd said: "After 10 years of Chelsfield being a public company, I am now firmly of the view that the challenges facing the business will be best met by the proposals."

The Reuben brothers agreed to invest in Chelsfield after knowing Mr Bernerd as a friend for some years. Both parties believe taking the company private will make it less vulnerable to opportunistic bids.

The Reubens, born into an Iraqi-Jewish family and brought up in Bombay, have accumulated a fortune in the region of £2bn from metal trading and property. They already own some trophy assets in the UK, such as Millbank Tower in Westminister.

Despite being one of the wealthiest families in Britain, they have traditionally kept a low profile. However, Chelsfield is the latest in a line of prominent deals the two have become involved in, last year staking an interest in Selfridges. In the end they pulled out, thinking the price for the Oxford Street store was too high.