Majestic Wine tycoon enjoys £24m pay day from share sale

Susie Mesure
Thursday 27 January 2005 01:00
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John Apthorp, the chairman of Majestic Wine, raised £24m yesterday when he halved his stake in the wine warehouse chain he co-founded almost 15 years ago.

His sale of 9.42 million shares at 250p each brings to £38.25m the amount he has cashed in during the past 18 months. Mr Apthorp will retire in August and hand over the chairmanship to Simon Burke, the former boss of Hamleys.

Mr Apthorp's son also took advantage of the company's soaring share price, selling 100,000 shares for £250,000. The disposals pare the Apthorp family's holding in Majestic to 24.5 per cent, down from almost two-thirds two years ago.

Tim How, the chief executive, said institutional investors had rushed to pick up the stock in what was only the second time the Apthorp family has sold down their holding since Majestic floated on AIM in 1996.

Asked whether a profits warning would follow Mr Apthorp's move, Mr How laughed: "No. It's extremely good news because the placing was substantially oversubscribed. It's very good news that John and his family will continue to hold a quarter of the equity."

Mr How predicted that Mr Apthorp, who trimmed his stake to 15.13 per cent, would remain a "substantial shareholder" even after his current lock-up runs out later this year. Shares in Majestic slipped 1p to 275.5p.

Mr Apthorp made his first fortune when he sold his Bejam frozen food company to Iceland in 1989, pocketing almost £70m. His family donates millions of pounds to good causes through the Milly Apthorp charitable trust, which was founded in 1982.

Majestic, which sells wine by the case, reported another year of strong trading over Christmas, with a 10.4 per cent rise in like-for-like sales during the nine weeks to 3 January. It has increased its profits every year bar one since it listed.

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