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LONDON-Formula One motor racing tycoon Bernie Ecclestone has emerged as a major financial backer for the £550 million ($880 million) Tchenguiz bid for Selfridges, the department store chain with a flagship unit on London’s Oxford Street.

Ecclestone is understood to have committed £100 million ($160 million) cash to support a bid of between 350p and 360p a share from property entrepreneur Robert Tchenguiz. The formal offer by Tchenguiz was submitted to the Selfridges board 24 hours after the “deadline” for bids had closed.

A rival bid by Scottish entrepeneur Tom Hunter came in at 340p-350p a share and a proposed management buyout has offered just under 360p. The group’s non-executives met earlier this week to consider the offers but indicated other potential bidders would be given a bit more time if they could demonstrate a funding commitment. So Ecclestone’s backing for the Tchenguiz bid puts it in the frame even though it was submitted late.

Speculation is also rife that two other late bids might come in. A formal “letter of intent” has been lodged with Selfridges’ financial adviser Merrill Lynch from the Reuben brothers, who made an estimated £2.1 billion ($3.4 billion) fortune through the Russian aluminium industry during the 1990s. Delancey, the property company run by Jamie Ritblat, son of British Land founder and chairman John Ritblat is also understood to be interested in making a late offer.

The huge appeal of Selfridges is its portfolio of department stores located in prime retail pitches across the country. Not only is the location of these stores highly sought after, but in addition getting planning permission for new outlets is particularly tough. Even so, Selfridges as an upmarket store operator is much sought after by developers to anchor their shopping centres.

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