Martin Dawes seeks a hat-trick with sale of TV rental chain

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The Independent Online

Martin Dawes, the serial entrepreneur, has hoisted the for-sale sign over his eponymous TV rental and electrical equipment business, which could bring to an end his family's more than 40-year involvement in the industry.

A sales memorandum for the TV rental and retail business, which sells home entertainment systems and white goods, was sent out earlier this month to potential investors.

A sale of Martin Dawes would be the third transaction for the reclusive Mr Dawes, who was unavailable for comment. He pocketed £70m from the sale of his Martin Dawes Telecommunications business to Cellnet in 1999. In 2002, he made up to £29m by selling his 35 per cent stake in Opal Telecom, which was bought by Carphone Warehouse.

His current reasons for selling Martin Dawes are unclear, but it is thought that the business has found trading challenging in recent years. Martin Dawes made a widening pre-tax loss of £2.6m for the year to 30 June 2007, before the worst impact of the credit crunch, according to its last set of accounts at Companies House. Over the 12 months, the company's total sales rose by 5 per cent to £25.2m. Its net debt at the end of June 2007 was £14.4m.

In the directors' report, Martin Dawes said: "While this is a very significant loss, this arose mainly from the need to dispose of older TV equipment at a loss compared to book value as well as the creation of provisions against surplus property costs."

He added: "Rental income will continue to decline albeit over a period of many years. However, there remain opportunities for business activity from the switch to flat screen technology and digital products."

Mr Dawes followed in his father's footsteps by setting up his own TV rental business in the early 1970s. Fred Dawes built a chain of TV rental shops in the 1960s, and then sold them to Radio Rentals in 1969. Subsequently, Radio Rentals turned the 90 stores into the Rumbelows chain.

It is unclear if the sales memorandum incorporates any of Mr Dawes' other businesses, including Martin Dawes Solutions, which provides video conferencing in English courts, and Martin Dawes Systems, which delivers billing services to mobile network operators.