Frasers Group has acquired a £75m stake in Bolton electricals giant AO.
Mike Ashley’s retail empire, which includes the likes of House of Fraser and Sports Direct, as well as North West companies including Missguided, I Saw It First and Studio Retail, and a significant share in N Brown Group, has bought all of the shares in the Bolton-headquartered group that were previously held by hedge fund Odey Asset Management. Frasers Group is also in talks to buy a brand from Manchester-headquartered THG.
The firm had built a stake of almost 20% in the listed group.
Michael Murray CEO of Frasers Group, said: “AO is a fantastic business with a clear strategy which is leading the market in online-only electricals. Through this investment, Frasers will benefit from AO’s valuable know-how in electricals and two-man delivery, helping us to drive growth in our bulk equipment and homeware ranges. In turn, AO will have the opportunity to benefit from Frasers’ expertise and ecosystem.”
John Roberts, founder and CEO of AO, added: “This is great news for AO and a fantastic endorsement for our business. We are delighted to welcome Michael and the wider Frasers team into the AO family and look forward to realising the significant potential that we see for this partnership.
“As we continue to build on our strategy of pivoting to profitable growth, it will be hugely exciting to have a range of compelling strategic opportunities to explore together and we’re very much looking forward to working with Michael and his team.”
Odey’s sale of its shares follows a report in the Financial Times which included allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct from women who either worked at the firm or had social or professional dealings with founder Crispin Odey. A statement signed by chief executive Peter Martin and chief financial officer Michael Ede, said the firm had investigated the allegations concerning Mr Odey but “cannot comment in detail as it is bound by legal obligations of confidentiality.”
The statement added that Odey is leaving the partnership and “as from today, he will no longer have any economic or personal involvement in the partnership.”
The alleged incidents occurred between 1998 and 2021, the FT reported, after interviewing 40 former employees at Odey Asset Management. In a statement to the FT, Odey described the claims as “rubbish”.
The FT also reported that Odey Asset Management faces a “widening investigation” by the Financial Conduct Authority after the loss of crucial banking relationships following the allegations.
The firm said on Saturday it has been “fully transparent with the regulator and kept them informed throughout this process”.
In February, AO upped it annual earnings outlook for the third time in just over three months after it said its cost-cutting efforts were paying off.