Sir Tom set to pocket pounds 77m

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The Independent Online
SIR TOM FARMER, the chairman and chief executive of Kwik-Fit, is set to pocket over pounds 77m if shareholders approve the pounds 1bn takeover offer from Ford, writes Andrew Verity.

Sir Tom, known in Edinburgh as a local philanthropist, admitted he felt emotional about the prospect of selling the company he founded 34 years ago. He has accepted Ford's offer, pledging his own 8 per cent stake.

He said he felt like the "father of the bride" before giving his daughter away. "This is like a wedding and Kwik-Fit is being married to a fantastic husband in the organisation of the Ford Motor Company, which is known and respected throughout the world," he said.

The sale to Ford is, said Sir Tom, "like the closing chapter in a book" that began with the opening in 1964 of Tyres and Accessory Supplies, a store in Buccleuch Street, Edinburgh, when he was 23 years old.

Six years later he almost sold the business for pounds 400,000. He wanted to retire to San Francisco, but returned to business when his wife Anne said his presence at home was "driving me nuts".

Kwik-Fit began in 1971, opening its first centre in Edinburgh with the ambition of providing a service to motorists "from showroom to scrapyard". It now employs 7,000 people and operates through 1,295 service points in the UK, Eire, Holland and Belgium. Last year the group bought a further 568 centres in France, Germany and Spain.

"I saw this [Ford offer] as an ideal opportunity to give Kwik-Fit more global opportunities. Kwik-Fit's headquarters will remain in Edinburgh and from this hub we will spearhead its continued worldwide expansion."

An ardent Catholic, Sir Tom arranges annual trips to Lourdes, the religious shrine in France. He has been criticised by some for a lack of attention to detail and is described as "not a nuts-and-bolts man".

He gained a reputation for philanthropy when he led a financial rescue of Hibernian, the Edinburgh football club, three years ago. He is now engaged in fund-raising initiatives for the refugees of Kosovo.