Never go back, they say.
That truism is given the lie by the triumphant homecoming of Iceland founder Malcolm Walker. The famously ebullient entrepreneur has worked wonders in his second term at the helm of the frozen retailer.
Yes, the recession meant conditions over the past couple of years were just right for the chain’s value proposition. But Iceland has grown impressively for five years on the bounce under Walker. He’s also diversified the business to the extent that fresh and ambient are now responsible for most of its growth. That’s one reason why Walker is in the running for The Grocer Cup this year.
It’s a pretty remarkable comeback, considering the controversial circumstances in which Walker exited the chain. Now he’s looking to take on the shares owned by Baugur creditors Landsbanki and Glitnir in an MBO valuing the company at £1bn.
The move, potentially bringing the saga full circle, is not in itself a big surprise. But today marks Walker’s first public admission that he wants to buy the company outright, having previously offered some pretty robust denials that an approach was on the cards.
An opaque ownership structure means it’s not entirely clear how much of the company is already owned by Walker and his management cohorts, although The Guardian puts that figure at around 25%.
The offer, he says, remains on the table. And at some point, the Icelandic banks will have to sell up. Also in his favour is the lack of obvious rival bidders, with private equity seemingly the most likely threat.
You get the feeling that Walker will soon enough end up master, once again, of his spiritual home.
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