Guy Hands cultivates interest in garden centres


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The Independent Online

The City financier Guy Hands is to get green fingers after his private equity firm agreed to acquire the Garden Centre Group in a deal worth £276m.

Terra Firma saw off competition from other buyout firms, including CCMP Capital, to bag the UK's biggest garden centre specialist, which operates 129 stores under the Wyevale, Country Homes and Gardens, and Blooms brands.

Lloyds Banking Group, which became the biggest shareholder in the Garden Centre Group after a debt-for-equity swap in late 2008, put the retailer up for sale last year by hiring advisers at Rothschild.

Andrew Sells, the chairman of GCG, said: "I am glad that the uncertainty over the future ownership of the business is now resolved."

Mr Hands, who founded Terra Firma, is best known for his ill-fated £4.2bn acquisition of the music group EMI in 2007. Following him losing control of the debt-laden EMI to Citigroup last year, Universal Music purchased EMI's recorded music business for $1.9bn (£1.1bn). The deal is now subject to a European Union competition investigation.