Tie Rack says it was `pestered' by Sock Shop

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TIE RACK, the tie and scarf chain, yesterday amused the City with the revelation that the owners of the Sock Shop had "pestered it" with requests to buy the sock and lingerie retailer.

In a statement to the Stock Exchange, Tie Rack said: "The company has been pestered by the owners of Sock Shop, the Tulchan Group, who are aggressively trying to sell Sock Shop. Tie Rack is not interested in buying Sock Shop."

Roy Bishko, the Tie-Rack chairman, said Sock Shop, which operates 85 outlets in Britain, was a "flawed proposition" and his company had "no intention" of acquiring it. Tulchan, the privately owned group which also runs the Jumper clothing stores, denied that it wanted to "off-load" Sock Shop.

"Sock Shop is the jewel in the crown of the group. There is no question whatsoever of any of the group brands being off-loaded," said Andrew Fortune, the finance director.

He denied that Tulchan had "pestered" Mr Bishko, saying that it had approached the Tie Rack chairman only once.

Mr Fortune declined to comment on the reason for the approach, but sources confirmed reports that Tulchan was planning to move to the stockmarket through a reverse takeover of Tie Rack. They added that Tulchan was not looking at an outright sale of Sock Shop.

The chain was bought byTulchan in 1996 from the collapsed Facia Group. In 1998, the chain contributed pounds 18.6m to the group's total turnover of pounds 41.4m, and posted a profit of pounds 1.8m.

Sales at Tie Rack's 446 shops have been hit hard by difficult trading conditions and last week the group revealed it had a pounds 4.3m loss. The shares, which hit a five-year low after the results, yesterday closed up 5p to 28.5p.