Sir Philip Green has pocketed a £1m windfall by offloading his stake in the beleaguered suit company Moss Bros, just two weeks after buying it.
The retail tycoon sold his 28.5 per cent stake to Simon Berwin, who runs the suit manufacturer Berwin & Berwin. A regulatory statement to the market announced the sale.
The transaction took Mr Berwin's holding in Moss Bros to 29.9 per cent; he was forced to sell part of his existing stake to ensure he did not breach the 30 per cent threshold that, once passed, forces a company to make a full takeover approach.
He denied Berwin & Berwin was preparing a bid. "This is a supportive move. Moss Bros is one of our largest clients and we've witnessed a lot of uncertainty there," he said. "We are looking to bring some stability." Moss Bros said that it was business as usual but declined to comment further.
Sir Philip, who owns Bhs, Topshop and Miss Selfridge, surprised the market on 12 November when he bought the Moss Bros stake from the struggling Icelandic group Baugur. He paid 24.95p for each share – worth £6.7m in total – and said he saw an opportunity to combine Moss Bros with some of his existing operations.
Yesterday, he sold the stake to a trust represented by Mr Berwin for 28.85p a share – £7.7m in total. Mr Berwin said the group was "happy with the price".
Nick Bubb, a Pali International analyst, said: "It's odd how his plans have changed so quickly. Maybe he's keeping his powder dry for something else."
In another twist, it emerged that Mr Berwin had agreed to buy the original stake from Baugur but the sellers lost patience and pulled the deal, selling to Sir Philip's company Warbeck instead.
Mr Berwin said he had contacted Sir Philip to stress the importance of the investment to his company. Conversations had recommenced this week and Sir Philip, who had been "an absolute gentleman", had agreed to sell.
Moss Bros shares rose 10 per cent to 18.75p on the news. They had lost more than a third of their value, as Sir Philip announced he was not planning a bid. Berwin & Berwin supplies stores such as Austin Reed, Next, and Ted Baker as well as Moss Bros, which has struggled in the downturn.