LK Bennett seeks outside investors

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Linda Bennett, the "Queen of the kitten heel", is planning to cash in on the success of her LK Bennett fashion empire by handing control of her £75m business to outside investors.

Linda Bennett, the "Queen of the kitten heel", is planning to cash in on the success of her LK Bennett fashion empire by handing control of her £75m business to outside investors.

Just months after she won the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year award, Ms Bennett is understood to have charged BDO Stoy Hayward, the accountants, to find strategic investors for the group.

Ms Bennett, who owns her business outright, is believed to be keen to retain some influence in the company, which she started in Wimbledon, south London, 14 years ago. The only funds at her disposal in 2000 were her £13,000 savings and a £315,000 loan from Barclays. Since paying off the loan, she has funded the expansion of her 50-strong chain entirely out of profit.

The business is gearing up for a major push overseas, which Ms Bennett, 40, believes will be more successful if she hands executive control to someone else. The group, which made £7m operating profit on sales of £50m last year, has outlets in Paris, Dublin and Jersey.

Given the current demand for retailers, BDO Stoy Hayward is likely to be flooded with offers for a stake in LK Bennett. Potential suitors include Baugur, the acquisitive Icelandic retailer, and Tom Hunter, the Scottish owner of Office, a shoe chain.

Ms Bennett, who was paid £1.8m last year, has pitched her chain at the lucrative niche between high-street chic and expensive designers. Most of her shoe designs feature kitten heels, which she likes because they are practical, yet elegant. Her shops have expanded into clothing and accessories.

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