Britain's Tax Exile Twins Snatch Woolworths Brand

04 February 2009

LONDON: Woolworth's, the ninety-nine year-old UK high street brand that sleepwalked its way into administration in November, has been acquired by Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, the aggressive identical-twin entrepreneurs.

The Gothic tax-exiles, who give the impression of stepping straight from the pages of Gormenghast, own UK national newspaper the Daily Telegraph, London's Ritz Hotel and the nation's largest home shopping retailer Shop Direct.

Unfortunately, the monozygotic pair, who inhabit a fortified castle on the Channel Island tax haven of Brecqhou, are not about to reopen the business and re-employ the thousands of staff whose jobs evaporated just before Christmas.

Instead, they intend to exploit the the Woolworths brand - along with its children's clothing sub-brand Ladybird - as online shopping sites.

As for the amount of cash that changed hands, the notoriously secretive pair's lips were zipped.

Via henchman Mark Newton-Jones, ceo of Shop Direct, the Barclays revealed only that they had paid "more than £1" for the two names.

The likelihood, however, is that several millions changed hands, with Deloitte, Woolworths' administrator, reportedly demanding £12 million ($16.9m; €13.28m) for Ladybird alone. 

Rejoices Newton-Jones [although not Woolworths now jobless staff]: "This is an iconic British retail brand that was going to die. As soon as we recognised that nobody was going to buy the stores we realised there was an opportunity to take the name."

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff