Julian Graves could be sold to founder
Black Country-based healthfood retailer Julian Graves could be sold back to the man who started the company as a market stall business 24 years ago.
Julian Graves chief executive Nick Shutts aims to take control of the company, along with seven members of his management team, from Icelandic retail investor Baugur.
The retailer, based in Kingswinford, is the UK’s largest independent specialist natural food and ingredients retailer with 350 stores across the UK, Ireland and the Channel Islands.
It employs 1,644 people, with around 150 based at its headquarters on the Pensnett Estate.
Baugur last month called in advisers to review the firm’s future and it is widely expected that a sale is the most likely option.
Mr Shutts told The Birmingham Post: “My management team and I would be delighted to reacquire the business.
“The management team and I are clearly discussing with Baugur how we can help them achieve their goals.
“I firmly believe that my management team and I are the right people to take this business to the next level.”
Mr Shutts said any timescale for a deal could be “shorter rather than longer”.
His co-investers have been named as retail director John Aston, buying director, Ian Tidmarsh, logistics director Paul Mooney, IT and admin director Kate Shutts, personnel director Claire Bloomer, property director Neil Dixon and marketing director Alison Miles.
Julian Graves was sold to Baugur for £14 million in 2003.
A spokeswoman for Baugur said: “It’s no secret that Deloitte has been hired to do a strategic review which may or may not end in a sale.”
The Icelandic investor, which also owns House of Fraser and toy retailer Hamleys, last week sold its 31.4 per cent stake in cash-and-carry business Booker.
Baugur said the disposal was in line with its strategy of focusing on retail investments.
In May Baugur also sold struggling discount fashion chain MK One to restructuring specialists Hilco who then put the firm into administration.
Julian Graves’ origins go back to 1984 when Mr Shutts borrowed £500 from his father to run a market stall in Moreton-in-Marsh in Gloucestershire selling traditional baking ingredients.
A source close to the deal told The Birmingham Post: “He would love to buy it back and this is his chance to buy it back.”
The company’s first shop, originally called Food for Thought, opened in Brierley Hill high street in 1987.
But after Nigel Morris invested in the business in 1993, he and Mr Shutts decided to use their middle names to create the name Julian Graves.
Today the firm operates an integrated trading policy, packing the ingredients for the products it sells in its own processing units, managing its own warehouse facility and delivering directly to its stores.
In April Julian Graves opened a new store in in Moreton-in-Marsh, just yards away from the town’s weekly market where the business began life.
Last year Julian Graves sold 800 tonnes of Brazil nuts, 500 tonnes of walnuts, 1,100 tonnes of cashews, 600 tonnes of prunes and 1,350 tonnes of dried apricots.