Joe Bloggs founder pulls out of bid to take over Moss Bros

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The Independent Online

Shami Ahmed, the retail entrepreneur behind the Joe Bloggs jeans label, abandoned his attempts to launch a takeover bid for Moss Bros, the beleaguered menswear outfitters, yesterday ahead of today's Takeover Panel deadline.

Mr Ahmed said he would not pursue bid talks after Moss Bros's board rejected his third informal approach and refused to grant him access to its books. Shares in the retail group slumped 8 per cent on the news, which drew a line under a four-month courtship saga.

Mr Ahmed, 39, said: "I'm very disappointed that I didn't have the opportunity to offer what I felt was a substantial premium to the share price." Last week Mr Ahmed and his investment vehicle Legendary Investments revealed he would be prepared to consider offering up to 50p per share, valuing Moss Bros, which includes Cecil Gee and Savoy Tailors Guild, at £46m.

But the proposal, which was backed with equity financing from David Rowland, the property millionaire, and Kevin Stanford, the co-founder of the Karen Millen fashion chain, and debt financing from Bank of Scotland, was conditional on Mr Ahmed being allowed to inspect Moss Bros's accounts.

Moss Bros – in which the founding Moss and Gee families still hold a 38 per cent stake – refused to co-operate on the grounds that a 50p-a-share offer did "not provide fair value in light of the board's view of the prospects for medium-term recovery and the strategic value of the brands".

Mr Ahmed, who critics say has a history of dipping in and out of retailers but failing to deliver, was sanguine about his failure to net Moss Bros. He insisted he was not concerned about the likely damage to his reputation. "People can say what they want [but] life goes on, everything goes on."

The entrepreneur, who made his name and fortune when his baggy Joe Bloggs jeans label took off in the early Nineties, said he had "more then enough stakes" in other retail companies to keep him busy.

While Takeover Panel rules prevent Mr Ahmed from bidding for Moss Bros within the next six months, he said he reserved the right to make an offer should another bidder emerge. He did not rule out selling the 5.42 per cent stake that he has built up in Moss Bros.

The pressure will now fall to Moss Bros's new chief executive, the former boss of the Bluewater shopping centre Adrian Wright, who took up the reins just over a month ago, to turn around the struggling business. The group, which has seen its fortunes collapse in recent years, is next week expected to report a loss of £5.5m. Its shares fell 3p to 37p.

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