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Tatas buy residual 24% in Landmark Bookstore

Tatas buy residual 24% in Landmark Bookstore

Mumbai: Trent Ltd, the Tata group firm which is in the business of retail, has acquired the 24% stake it already didn’t own in retail chain Landmark Bookstore that was held by co-founder Hemu Ramaiah.

The deal, for an undisclosed amount, was signed on Wednesday. Ramaiah, the CEO of Landmark, confirmed the deal and said that she had resigned from her post. She is now in the process of starting a retail consulting firm called Shop4Solutions.

In 2005, Trent acquired a majority 76% stake in Landmark and its subsidiaries— 75% from Nataraj Ramaiah, Hemu Ramaiah’s brother, and 1% from the latter — for Rs103.6 crore. Trent runs the Westside and Star Bazaar chains. After the acquisition, Himanshu Chakrawarti, a Trent executive, was named COO of Landmark. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he would be named CEO. Chakrawarti said he was not the right person to comment on the subject. An executive at Trent declined to comment on the issue and the firm’s head of marketing Neeti Chopra did not respond to telephone calls and an email from Mint. Ramaiah declined to comment on the value of the deal although a person familiar with the transaction said it was at least Rs100 crore.

“We started Landmark in 1987 and in time it became a large format store. We went into import, distribution, publishing and in 2000 we set up a website as well. I have spent 20 years on the brand and I think we have done a lot on Landmark, starting off from a family-owned business and, in time, giving it a pan-India footprint. We have given it all to the Tatas on a platter really," said Ramaiah.

Landmark has 10 stores across cities such as Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Vadodara, Gurgaon, Pune, and Lucknow, according to information on its website.

A person familiar with the development said the deal was to have happened six months ago, but was delayed due to a non-compete clause that Trent wanted. “Yes, there was a non-compete clause and we were negotiating on that. But we thought about it and we are fine with it," said Ramaiah.

She added that she saw potential for retail consulting. “Contrary to what people think, it’s not easy to make a profit in the retail business and Landmark is one of the few profitable chains," she added.

Most independent book retail chains in the country have been acquired by companies in the organized retail business. While Crossword was acquired by Shoppers Stop Ltd in 2000, Odyssey was acquired by media firm Deccan Chronicle Holdings Ltd in 2005. Pantaloon Retail and Reliance Retail Ltd have their own book store chains, Depot and Reliance TimeOut, respectively. Apart from books, these stores earn revenues from sale of gifts and greeting cards, music and DVDs, even leather products and gaming systems.

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