Tchibo coffee family 'to back' GfK's counterbid for TNS

The investment vehicle owned by two scions of the German retail billionaire Herz family is tipped as a financial backer of a possible counter-offer for TNS by Nuremberg-based GfK.

GfK's original plans for an all-share nil-premium merger with TNS were dissolved this week following a hostile bid for the UK company from Sir Martin Sorrell's advertising empire, WPP. GfK is trying to put together private equity to fund a bid of its own, although amidst intense speculation about the identity of possible backers it made a formal statement that a formal bid is not a certainty. According to the German press, GfK's talks are with Mayfair, the Hamburg investment outfit owned by brother and sister Günter and Daniela Herz. Mayfair will neither confirm nor deny the reports.

The Herz family inherited their wealth from their father Max, who founded the Tchibo coffee chain. The £10.4bn fortune puts the family at joint 28th on this year's Forbes Rich List alongside Mikhail Fridman – the Russian oligarch embroiled in disputes at TNK-BP. Günter and Daniela were bought out of Tchibo Holding, which is one of Germany's largest retail groups, in 2003 for around $4.5bn (£2.3bn) after disagreements about strategy with three other brothers and Ingeburg, their mother. The pair subsequently bought a 16.9 per cent stake in Puma, the sports goods company, which was sold to Gucci Group for £953m last year. One brother, Joachim, died last month after being hit by motorboat while swimming.

TNS shares were up 0.25p at 274.75p yesterday, above the WPP offer price of 259p a share, on the prospect of a bidding war, but some large investors are scaling back holdings. Fidelity, the biggest single shareholder, cut its stake to 8.62 per cent from around 11 per cent yesterday.

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