Jeweller adds bit of drama to Pinewood saga

A HIGH-STREET jeweller has introduced a new twist in the tale of the takeover bid for film studios owner Pinewood Shepperton.

Warren James Holdings, which owns a 115-strong chain of jewellers, is understood to have acquired a 15 per cent stake in Pinewood, potentially threatening property firm Peel Holdings’ plans to take full control of the business.

Peel, run by property developer John Whittaker, agreed a 200p-a-share takeover of Pinewood in April, valuing the film studio at £96.1m.

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Pinewood is best known as the home of the Harry Potter and James Bond blockbusters.

Peel, which also owns John Lennon airport in Liverpool and the new Salford Quays media development, said it has secured acceptances from shareholders owning 63.3 per cent of the company, but it needs more than 75 per cent acceptance from investors in order to take the firm off the stock market.

Warren James was founded in 1979 and markets itself as an affordable jewellers, offering up to 50 per cent off the recommended retail price of many of its products.

The company has not released a statement to explain its intentions, but it could be trying to force a higher offer from Peel or acting on a belief that a rival suitor could enter the frame.

Peel’s bid previously won the support of activist shareholder Crystal Amber, which owns around 28.9 per cent of Pinewood and has been critical of the company’s board leadership in recent years.

Its backing for the Peel bid can only be dislodged if a new bidder comes in with a proposal worth not less than 250p a share.

Mohammed Fayed, the former owner of Harrods, contacted Pinewood’s board about a potential 250p a share bid in April but later withdrew his interest.

The 75-year-old business is planning an ambitious £20m Project Pinewood expansion at its studios in Buckinghamshire that will see it build new facilities and sets on a par with those found in Hollywood.

Its television studios have shot Dancing On Ice, Dragons’ Den, BBC sitcom My Family, Piers Morgan’s Life Stories and entertainment show Ant & Dec’s Push The Button.

Peel previously said it expected Pinewood to operate independently of its own media assets, which include the new home for the BBC, ITV, Coronation Street and the University of Salford at the MediaCityUK development at Salford Quays.