Troubled Gadget shop attracts a bidder

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The Independent Online

The Gadget Shop, the technology retailer that was brought to its knees by warring shareholders, was thrown a lifeline yesterday after its administrator said it had lined up a buyer for the business.

The Gadget Shop, the technology retailer that was brought to its knees by warring shareholders, was thrown a lifeline yesterday after its administrator said it had lined up a buyer for the business.

PKF, appointed to salvage what it could after a shareholder dispute plunged The Gadget Shop into administration, has selected a preferred bidder. Bryan Jackson, a partner at PKF, said he hoped to conclude a deal within 10 days.

There were no clues yesterday as to the identity of the suitor, although one source close to the company pointed out that Game Group, the computer games retailer that is itself on the receiving end of a bid, had previously been in talks to acquire The Gadget Shop. News that the administrator had even found a preferred bidder came as a surprise to the group's shareholders.

Mr Jackson said: "Every effort will be made to retain as many jobs as possible across The Gadget Shop's remaining 55 stores." The shareholder row, which has culminated in court proceedings, has so far cost 114 employees of The Gadget Shop their jobs. Ten stores have been closed.

Tom Hunter and Chris Gorman, the Scottish entrepreneurs who control the retailer, are fighting a court case that was launched by fellow investors Peter Wilkinson, the Freeserve designer, and Jon Wood, the UBS trader. Even Jonathan Elvidge, the chain's founder who sold it in 2003, has been named in the proceedings.

Finding a preferred bidder means The Gadget Shop will be sold as a going concern. The company, which had a disappointing Christmas along with the rest of the chains on high street, is thought to have net debt of about £3m.

All five shareholders have been gagged from talking about the cause of the dispute,which is known to have centred on the greetings card retailer, Birthdays. The Scottish duo is believed to stand accused of breaking an agreement to use The Gadget Shop to acquire other retailers, starting with the Birthdays chain.

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