Historic toy retailer Hamleys bought by India’s richest man

Hamleys, the world’s oldest toy shop, has been bought by India’s richest man for an undisclosed sum.

Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Brands business has secured a deal to buy the retailer from Chinese fashion conglomerate C Banner International.

The move brings to an end Hamleys four-year spell under the Hong-Kong based firm, which bought it for £100 million.

Reliance will be Hamleys fourth international owner since it was bought off the London stock exchange in 2003, during a period which has also seen it under the control of French and Icelandic owners.

The Indian group had already partnered with Hamleys in the country, holding the master franchise for India, where there are 88 stores in 29 cities.

The toy seller, which was founded in 1760 and operates its flagship store on Regent Street in London, operates 167 stores in 18 countries.

In 2017, Hamleys closed a number of loss-making stores in the UK and Ireland, as it started a restructuring programme after posting a £9.2 million pre-tax loss during the year, citing concerns over Brexit.

The acquisition comes after a sale process for the retailer which reportedly also drew interest from Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley, and toy retail chains The Entertainer and Smyths.

The deal will make Hamleys Reliance’s first overseas retail brand, expanding its current portfolio which is primarily focused in Indian supermarkets.

President and chief executive of Reliance Brands, Darshan Mehta, said: “This 250-year-old English retailer pioneered the concept of experiential retailing, decades before the concept of creating unique experiences in brick and mortar retailing became the new global norm.

“The worldwide acquisition of the iconic Hamleys brand and business, places Reliance into the frontline of global retail.”