Dreams come true for Clare

Dreams founder Michael Clare looks set for a big windfall, with a £200m sale to private equity.

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Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Clare, a regular in MT’s list of Britain’s Top 100 Entrepreneurs, is looking to cash in on the 150-store chain of bed shops he and his wife Carol founded in 1985 – which he likes to call his ‘fifth child’. Apparently they entered exclusive talks with Exponent Private Equity about a £200m deal at the back end of last week.

However, the buyout firm won’t have been happy to see news of the deal leak out in the Sunday papers – the details could draw out other bidders, or Clare could be tempted to take his business public instead. Some analysts have suggested that this could value Dreams at up to £500m, so we’re not surprised he hasn’t ruled it out.

Dreams is one of the few retailers that doesn’t seem to have been affected by the high street slowdown. It recently reported a 27% sales increase to nearly £200m, with profits almost doubling to £13m, and announced plans to open 50 new stores. Not bad for a business that started more than 20 years ago as a single sofa bed shop in Uxbridge.

Clare gave up a steady job (as a sales manager for another furniture company) and re-mortgaged the family house to set up the business. He once told MT that his drive came partly from a desire to outdo his brother, who went to Cambridge University and went on to a successful career. Clare junior, who didn't even go university, was determined to beat him into ‘Who’s Who’ – and eventually succeeded. Now he looks as though he’s finally ready to reap the rewards of 20 years’ hard work (he was probably hoping to sell before Alistair Darling ramps up the CGT rate – though he may be a bit late to beat the April deadline now).

One consolation for the husband-and-wife team if Exponent do win the race to buy Dreams is that there will still be a Clare at the helm. Technically ex-Dixons CEO John Clare, the man lined up to run the business, is no relation. But it might at least save some cash on stationery.

In MT’s ‘How to Spend It’ wealth management supplement last year, Clare told us he was hoping to buy an apartment on The World cruise ship this year. With £200m in the bank, he can buy his own boat...

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