"It is a long cherished dream come true."
Famous London toy store Hamleys was purchased by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani for a reported £70 million.
Reliance Brands Limited, which is owned by Ambani, stated it had signed an agreement to buy the toy retailer from China’s C Banner International which had acquired it in 2015.
Hamleys, which was founded in 1760, is the world’s oldest toy retailer and has 167 stores across 18 countries.
Reliance Industries already operates 88 Hamleys stores across 29 Indian cities. According to Forbes, Ambani is worth £39 billion.
In a statement, President and CEO 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 became the new global norm.
“The worldwide acquisition of the iconic Hamleys brand and business places Reliance into the frontline of global retail.
“It is a long cherished dream come true.”
Ambani has said he hopes the consumer business wing of his empire will contribute as much to his conglomerate’s earnings as the core energy business by the end of 2028.
He is currently competing against Amazon and Walmart. They are in an ongoing race to dominate India’s retail market.
Ambani’s acquisition of the much-loved Hamleys will help strengthen that fight.
In 2018, the toy retailer reported a £9.2 million loss. They blamed Brexit and the threat of terrorism for the downturn in profits.
This caused potential buyers such as Mike Ashley to lose interest in buying the company.
Four stores had been opened in the UK, however, it later closed two.
In 2017, Hamleys closed a number of loss-making stores in the UK and Ireland.
The closures happened at the same time as they began a restructuring programme after posting a £9.2 million pre-tax loss during the year.
They claimed that there were concerns over the effect Brexit would have.
Despite the losses, its flagship store on Regent Street in London, which opened in 1881, continues to be one of the city’s main attractions.
The shop itself is a tourist attraction that receives five million visitors each year.
There are seven floors filled with an estimated 50,000 lines of toys on sale.
Since the mid-2000s, Hamleys has been expanding internationally.
The deal has made Hamleys Reliance’s first overseas retail brand, expanding its current portfolio which is mainly focused on Indian supermarkets.
Ambani’s purchase now brings him a total of 167 shops in 18 countries.