Architect of Boots takeover mulls new bid for chemist chain

The architect of Boots’ takeover deal in 2007 is mulling a new bid for the chemist chain as CVC Capital considers joining forces with Bain Capital.

The two private equity firms are exploring a multibillion pound offer for the 173-year-old retailer as its US owner, Walgreens Boots Alliance, considers offloading it.

Walgreens confirmed a strategic review into its ownership of Boots on Tuesday. It has been working with bankers at Goldman Sachs to examine offers for the Nottingham-based firm amid a renewed focus on the US market, although the review could also lead to a separate stock market listing. At the centre of a possible bid sits the CVC managing partner Dominic Murphy.

Fifteen years ago he helped orchestrate a deal for Boots in what was then Europe’s biggest leveraged buyout while working for KKR.

Mr Murphy, who is on the board of Walgreens, joined CVC in 2019. He would have to recuse himself from any board discussions at the pharmaceutical giant about a potential sale due to his roles. Mr Murphy is also on the board of THG, Matthew Moulding’s e-commerce company.

A sale of Boots, which may not happen as discussions remain at an early stage, would bring down the curtain on Stefano Pessina’s involvement with the chain.

Boots, which traces its roots to John Boot’s first Nottingham store in 1849, has more than 2,000 shops and is one of the UK’s best-known retailers.

In 2005, Richard Barker, Boots’ then chief executive, stunned the City with a £7bn merger with Mr Pessina’s AllianceUni Chem, ending more than 150 years of the British chain’s independence.

Just two years later, Mr Pessina, now chairman of Walgreens, took the company private in a £11bn deal backed by KKR. The takeover left Boots lumbered with £9bn of debt.

Mr Murphy then helped Mr Pessina and KKR sell a 45pc stake to Walgreens in 2012 in a £4bn deal, and the remaining 55pc in 2014 for £6bn.

CVC and Bain declined to comment.

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