Spotlight On... Malcolm Walker, chief executive, Iceland

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The Independent Online

Is he the frozen food guru?

Well yes, he is the founder and chief executive of Iceland Foods.

What's he up to?

Mr Walker, who opened his first store in 1970, has entered exclusive talks with the liquidators of two failed Icelandic banks to buy the 750-store chain from them for about £1.5bn. Landsbanki and Glitnir put their combined shareholding of 77 per cent up for sale last year.

Was anyone else interested?

Yes, the private equity firms BC Partners and Bain Capital submitted final-round bids on 31 January, while Asda and Morrisons dropped out of the race before then. But Mr Walker, who was advised by Rothschild, now appears in pole position to buy the chain he founded.

What does it mean for Iceland's staff?

Most are likely to be dancing in the aisles, as the frozen food chain has gone from strength to strength since he returned in 2005. Its profits jumped by 14.8 per cent to £155.5m for the year to 25 March 2011.

Why did he ever leave?

He stepped down in 2001, following his controversial sale of £13.5m of shares in December 2000, just weeks before a profit warning. But Mr Walker was cleared by the Serious Fraud Office of any wrongdoing.

And in his absence?

The business struggled under the leadership of Bill Grimsey, the former boss of Focus DIY, and Iceland's website still refers to the four-year period as "The Dark Ages". The defunct Icelandic group Baugur acquired Iceland in 2005 and brought Mr Walker back.

Talking of ages, isn't Mr Walker getting on a bit?

Funny you should mention that, as he turned 66 on Saturday, but his passion for the business appears undimmed. He also did a bit of mountaineering last year.

Rambling in Snowdonia?

Hardly. He and his son reached the North Col of Everest at 7,020 metres (23,030 feet), helping to raise at least £1m for Alzheimer's Research.

The boy done good

You could say that. The Sunday Times says he's worth £166m.