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Walker buys back Iceland food chain in £1.45bn deal

FROZEN food king Malcolm Walker has bought back the Iceland chain he founded in a deal worth £1.45bn.

Mr Walker, who started the Deeside-based company more than 40 years ago, will own 43% of the business.

He joined forces with other investors, including DFS sofa chain boss Lord Graham Kirkham, to land the Flintshire firm after months of speculation.

The company’s new chairman and chief executive, who rejoined the business in 2005, said the move would be well received by Iceland’s 23,000 staff – including the 500 at its Deeside headquarters and 976 across Wales.

The new board acquired the chain from creditors to Landsbanki, the collapsed Icelandic bank which took control of the chain in 2008.

Mr Walker, who received an honorary fellowship from Glyndwr University last year, said: “I am utterly delighted that we have been able to conclude a deal that ensures a secure, independent future for this great British company.

“I know that this will be warmly welcomed by our staff. It is also great news for our suppliers and customers.”

He added: “Our new equity partners in the business are like-minded entrepreneurs who share our belief in doing the right thing in the long term interests of our people and customers.

“We all look forward to working with them to build on the outstanding success that Iceland has achieved as one of the UK’s best performing food retailers since the current senior management team returned to the company in 2005.”

Mr Walker and his senior management team, including its finance director and buying director, already held 23% of the business.

They will now have full operational and board control following the acquisition, which was backed by £860m of debt funded by five banks, including HSBC and RBS.