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Business News

Swiss role for Lonrho as it sheds Tiny Rowland roots


One of the most colourful chapters in corporate Britain finally came to a close today as the 104-year-old Lonrho agreed to a £175 million takeover bid from two Swiss businessmen.

Fund manager Rainer-Marc Frey and Switzerland’s fourth-wealthiest man Thomas Schmidheiny already own 20 per cent of Lonrho through their bid vehicle FS Africa. Today they won approval for a 10.25p-per-share bid giving them another 18%.

Originally called the London and Rhodesia Mining and Land Company, Lonrho shot to fame when Roland “Tiny” Rowland  became chief executive in 1962. He ran the company until he was ousted in a boardroom coup in 1993.

Under his leadership, Lonrho diversified widely to own everything from Brentford Nylons to the Observer newspaper. He fought a bitter battle to take over Harrods but lost to Mohamed Fayed. Two months before Tiny’s death in 1998, Lonrho split in two creating platinum miner Lonmin and today’s Lonrho which has agricultural, support services and hotel interests in Africa.

Today the board accepted the bid saying Lonrho required significant capital to grow and that this could be achieved more effectively as a private company.