Founder ends bid for Waterston

Tim Waterstone, the founder of the Waterstone’s book chain, has withdrawn a £280m (€409m) offer to buy back the business from current owner, HMV.

Waterstone said the conditions imposed on his consortium were too punitive and that “no potential acquirer” could have accepted them. But he said he would be “highly interested” if the book business was put up for sale without the conditions.

Earlier, HMV had announced that one of the consortium’s backers, Lazard Private Equity, had withdrawn support for the Waterstone’s bid.

If successful, the bid would have seen Waterstone become the firm’s chairman, with former Penguin UK head Anthony Forbes Watson installed as chief executive.

The conditions imposed by HMV included the consortium having to complete due diligence within 14 days. HMV could also have terminated the bid at any time – with the consortium being barred from a future offer for one year.

The offer for Waterstone’s was subject to HMV abandoning its planned acquisition of smaller bookstore chain Ottakar’s.

“This leaves HMV likely to renew its offer for Ottakar’s,” Seymour Pierce analyst Richard Ratner wrote in a note to clients. WH Smith might also bid for the book chain, he said.

Tim Waterstone opened the first Waterstone’s outlet in 1982 and sold a controlling stake in the company to WH Smith in 1989. In 1998, the chain was sold to a joint venture between EMI Group and Advent International, which owned HMV.