One of Britain’s richest self-made men is taking steps towards a London flotation of his discount retail chain that could value it at close to £2bn.
Sky News has learnt that Chris Dawson, who founded The Range nearly 30 years ago, has opened talks with investment banks about working on the listing.
Sources said that Mr Dawson, who only learnt to read in his late 20s, is targeting a stock market debut for The Range during the second half of the year.
Several banks are expected to be hired to work on it before the spring.
If he does take it public, the company’s arrival on the London Stock Exchange will catapult one of the UK’s most remarkable entrepreneurs into the City spotlight.
Mr Dawson, who identifies himself so closely with the Only Fools And Horses character Derek Trotter that he owns the car registration DE11 BOY, has built a retail empire now standing at about 150 stores.
Plymouth-based The Range, which sells a variety of branded homewares at ?discounted prices, is expected to make a profit of about £100m in the year to January.
It is expected to target a valuation multiple similar to that of B&M Retail, another listed chain, which would make it worth roughly £1.7bn.
Last year’s Sunday Times Rich list valued the fortune of Mr Dawson and his wife Sarah at £1.9bn, putting them joint 67th in the rankings.
He has told an interviewer: “I’ve never written a letter in my life or read a book.
“I don’?t care about that.
“Some people don’t get here by luck – they get here because they’re the very best.”
Sources close to Mr Dawson said he likes to describe The Range as “the working man’s John Lewis”, adding that he believes the business has very strong growth prospects.
Nevertheless, its ambition of joining listed rivals such as B&M, Dunelm and Debenhams comes at a time when investor sentiment towards many retailers has turned sour.
High rent costs, the National Living Wage, Apprenticeship Levy and rising inflation have left chains such as House of Fraser, Toys R Us and New Look? begging landlords for financial support.
The Range’s performance underlines why it does not have similar worries, with sales surging year-on-year and Mr Dawson able to comfortably pay himself a £100m dividend from the company last year.
He has cited Sir Philip Green and Mike Ashley, his fellow retail tycoons, among the businessmen he admires, although City investors will hope that he has a more productive relationship with them than the latter.
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Bankers at HSBC are working with Mr Dawson on his listing plans, although it is possible that private equity firms will seek to table a knockout bid for The Range prior to it going public.
A spokesman for The Range declined to comment.