Sterling withdraws Debrett's from sale

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The Independent Online

Debrett's, the chronicler of the British aristocracy for more than 200 years that was put up for sale last year, has failed to attract any buyers interested in transforming the business into a luxury goods brand.

Sterling Publishing Group, which acquired Debrett's in the late 1980s, yesterday admitted the business has been taken off the market. The publisher has failed in its attempts to convince potential purchasers that the brand could be the next big thing in the luxury goods and services market. It had hoped to attract interest from the likes of LVHM, the French designer group, or an upmarket hotel chain.

Reporting full-year results yesterday, Simone Kesseler, Sterling's chief executive, said the company had received offers for Debrett's but that these had been too low. The only bidders had been publishing companies. "Debrett's remains non-core but we have got to do more things to prove its value, so that it is valued as a brand rather than a publisher," Ms Kesseler said.

She said Sterling would work to attach the Debrett's name to a non-publishing activity, such as a hotel or travel service, although it was unclear how this would be financed. "We're not going to rush out and buy a hotel," she said.

The division does not fit with Sterling's other interests, which focus on business-to-business publishing of industry annuals and related websites. Posting a 32 per cent rise in pre-tax profit to £5.7m yesterday, the company said that revenues were down in Debrett's biggest product, the annual People of Today publication, which provides biographical information on "leading figures in British society" (not aristocrats).

The business became famous for a guide to the aristocracy, Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, first published in 1789 and still updated regularly.