Luxury jeweller Links hopes for a buyer who would cherish it

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The Independent Online

Links of London, the jeweller best known for luxury cufflinks, has been put up for sale by the husband and wife team who founded the business in 1991.

John Ayton and Annoushka Ducas could get £30m for their two-thirds stake in the fast-growing company.

A sale will not only allow the pair to cash in their holding, it should also help fund ambitious expansion plans led by managing director Gareth Morris.

Links has 28 stores across the world and 12 boutiques in high-class retailers such as Harrods and Selfridges. It has just opened in Japan, making it one of the very few global luxury jewellers.

The company was formed after Ms Ducas designed a batch of cufflinks for her mother and realised the potential of the goods. Initially a place for City workers to get flash accessories, Links is now increasingly aimed at wealthy women who crave expensive jewellery.

It had turnover of £30m last year but the management plans to increase this to £100m in the next four years.

The couple, who have been hands-off in the day-to-day running of the company for several years, decided to sell after receiving approaches from rivals in the luxury goods sector and from private equity houses.

Mr Ayton believes that with strong financial backing, the company could take on Cartier and Tiffany in the high-end jewellery market.

The couple, who married in 1990, have a majority stake in the company, with the rest held by a family trust and by a private, unnamed, individual.

Mr Ayton said: "After starting in a very humble way we have discovered a real niche.

"We are very keen that Links should be an international name, and if we could remain connected to the business that would be great."

Asked who his preferred buyer would be, he replied: "Someone who would cherish the brand as much as we do."

UBS has been hired to find a buyer, with a sale price of £50m mooted. A deal at such a price would clearly give Mr Ayton, 44, and his wife, 40, financial independence for life. They have four young children.

Links goods are stocked in 65 retail outlets in the UK, making it one of the most recognised British jewellery brands.

The couple opened their first store in Broadgate in the City. Potential buyers could include Baugur, the Icelandic group.

A memorandum detailing the strengths of the business was circulated to interested parties in the last few days.