McColl Founder Steps Down And Cashes in Remaining 33.6 Euro Million Stake

THE co-founder of convenience chain McColl’s has stepped down from the board and cashed in his remaining £33.6 million stake amid speculation that he is set to lead a rescue of grocery wholesaler Palmer & Harvey.
 
James Lancaster, who started the business – then a cigarette vending operation – more than 40 years ago, owned a 28 per cent stake worth £56 million when the company floated on the stock market three years ago. 
 
Its shares have jumped from a listing price of 191p and Lancaster sold his remaining 10 per cent holding, or 11 million shares, at 295p.
 
Lancaster said: “It’s the right time for me to stand down. I have every confidence that under the stewardship of the board, McColl’s will continue to thrive.” 
 
Lancaster has reportedly been sounded out by private equity group Carlyle, which is working on a takeover of Palmer & Harvey, to become the wholesaler’s non-executive chairman. 
 
Cigarettes giant Imperial Brands said last week it was working with other stakeholders to “create a sustainable future for Palmer & Harvey, with whom we have a close trading relationship”. 
 
Imperial and rival Japan Tobacco have already provided combined loans of about £60 million. 
 
McColl’s declined to comment on Lancaster’s possible move.
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