Silentnight founders put takeover to bed with £72m offer

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The Independent Online

The embattled furniture and bedding group Silentnight was likely to become a private company again after the independent directors yesterday recommended a 155p-a-share offer from the company's founding family valuing the business at £72m.

The chairman, Roger Pedder, said the offer from Soundersleep, a bid vehicle created by Silentnight's founders, the Clarke family, represented a "fair price" for the company.

The group, which includes the Sealy and Parker Knoll brands, was formed in 1946 and floated on the stock exchange in 1973. The Clarke family retained a controlling 51 per cent stake in the business.

But Silentnight, based in Lancashire, has been beset with problems over the past 18 months. Last September, its then chairman, Keith Ackroyd, and chief executive, Bill Simpson, were forced out by the Clarke family following the breakdown of a 190p-a-share offer from the family's investment vehicle, Famco Holdings.

The beds and the furniture divisions have continued to struggle since then.

The Soundersleep offer coincided with the announcement of a £6.5m pre-tax loss for the six months to 2 August and Mr Pedder said it would be three to five years before the company "got any results" from the major restructuring work that had been undertaken since his arrival in January.

Mr Pedder said Silentnight "had never truly been a public company" and it was better to sort out "these problems in a private situation". The offer represents a 32 per cent premium to the share price on the day of Soundersleep's earlier indicative offer of 140p in July.

Gary Channon of Phoenix Asset Management Partners, a 7.5 per cent stakeholder in Silentnight, said that Phoenix had only agreed to sell reluctantly. Mr Channon was critical of the Clarke family's use of "their power to change the board" last year and said that the situation since has been "really not satisfactory" given that the Clarke family, as the only potential bidder, had benefited from a drop in the company's valuation.