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Caudwell Group sale rings up £1.46bn

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John Caudwell was flicking through yacht catalogues this morning after sealing the sale of his telecoms empire to a pair of private equity groups for £1.46bn.

The Phones4U chain and the business-to-business operation will go to Providence Equity, a US-based firm, while UK-based Doughty Hanson will take over the 20:20 Logistics handset distribution arm.

Caudwell owned 85 per cent of the group, meaning he can look forward to a £1.24bn payoff when the deal completes next month. Caudwell’s brother, Brian, and finance director Craig Bennett owned the rest of the firm.

The £1.46bn final price was much more than many observers had expected, with some last year estimating £800m as the going rate for the business.

Caudwell had always said it was worth more, and also said a private equity sale was more likely to preserve jobs than a sale to a competitor. Whether this will be the case remains to be seen – private equity firms have a reputation for slashing costs and pruning assets as they seek a return on their investments.

As for Caudwell, the papers and radio were quoting him today saying he was going to take some time off, do some work on his children’s charity and possibly sail around the world. After all, now he’s offloaded the business he started roaming charges won’t be a problem.®

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