Takeover bids have been received by David Jones chairman Bob Savage.THE man behind the mysterious $1.65 billion takeover offer for Australia’s oldest department store, David Jones, has revealed himself as John Edgar – a Scot linked to a matrix of dubious one-pound companies, including a beverage company that claims to sell jewel-encrusted bottles of halal vodka for $5.3 million a piece.
Mr Edgar contacted the media yesterday, brandishing two letters he had sent to the David Jones chairman, Bob Savage – one on May 22 and another on June 27 increasing the offer price.
The letters describe his company EB Private Equity as a British- and Luxembourg-based investment fund. It says it has lined up partners that will provide capital and lenders to provide debt finance. ”We are in discussions with various partners and hope to have a conference call with the David Jones chairman next week.”
Mr Edgar said he thought David Jones was undervalued and was particularly interested in its department store real estate – which he said was EB Private Equity’s specialty. However, he declined to identify any of his company’s previous deals.
If the latest offer – made in an unsolicited email to David Jones on Thursday – leads to nothing Australian investors are set to lose up to $175 million. He insisted last night the negotiations were ”very preliminary”.
However, concerns around EBPE’s bona fides remain. The company’s business address in Newcastle, England, is little more than a post office box in a back street – wedged between a wig shop and a noodle restaurant.
Investigations by the Herald have uncovered a trail of abandoned shelf companies associated with Mr Edgar – most of which are devoid of any assets.
The DJs share price surged by as much as 20 per cent on Friday – its biggest one-day rally since it floated 17 years ago.
However, questions about the credibility of the approach were raised soon after Mr Savage advised the Australian Securities Exchange, ahead of trading on Friday, the company was lacking
key information – including, initially, the bidder’s identity.
On Friday afternoon DJs made a further announcement, stating that a British blogger hadnamed the bidder as EB Private Equity – but not the identity behind it.
Suggestions that EBPE was being advised by Lang LaSalle and Chalkhill Partners were denied by both.
Investigations by the Herald have linked EB Private Equity with the Luxury Beverage Company, which is owned by John (Marshall) Edgar, with office locations registered in Manchester, Newcastle and Warwickshire. Last year the group, which claims to sell a variety of alcoholic brands, announced it had launched a non-alcoholic drink for the Islamic market.
The company claims the beverage, called Ruwa and reportedly selling for $5.3 million, is sold in hand-made crystal decanters studded with diamonds, rubies and white gold. The Herald cannot confirm if the product exists.
The Herald has also identified Mr Edgar to be a director of Ellen’s Brands, which is based in Darwin but has no website describing its activities. Mr Edgar’s former fellow director William MacDonald, an 84-year-old former accountant from Deloitte, says he has never met Mr Edgar and has no idea what the company does. However, he said that documents he had received from the Australian Taxation Office suggested it was in some dispute with the company.
The revelations come after DJs told investors on Friday that the lack of ”usual public information” about the bidding consortium meant shareholders should ”treat any related market comment cautiously”.
Yesterday a spokeswoman for David Jones said it was still seeking more information about the mystery bidder.
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