John Apthorp, chairman of Majestic Wine, raised £24m yesterday when be halved his stake in the wine warehouse chain to 15%, seven months ahead of his retirement.

Apthorp, who co-founded the chain almost 15 years ago, insisted he would remain a long0term investor in the company.

Two months ago, Tim How, chief executive of Majestic, sold almost half his stake raising £822,500.

Apthorp is due to retire after Majestic’s annual general meeting on August 5 and he will be succeeded by Simon Burke, a former Hamleys executive who is already a board member.

Last week Majestic reported another year of strong trading over Christmas with a 10.4% rise in like-for-like sales during the nine weeks to 3 January.