The Midlands' richest man has called in advisers to sell his business empire, it has been reported.
John Caudwell, who built the Phones 4U highstreet chain into one of Britain's biggest retailers, came top of this year's Birmingham Post Midland Rich List with an estimated fortune of #1.5 billion.
The 52-year-old entrepreneur has hired NM Rothschild, the investment bank, to sound out potential buyers for the business he founded with his brother Brian in 1987. He is valuing Phones 4U at #800m.
It was believed Mr Caudwell was preparing to float the business on the stock-market before opting for an outright sale which will see the two brothers, who own 97 per cent of the company, net a one-off jackpot.
The move will stun even those close to the colourful Mr Caudwell, the group's chairman and chief executive, and this weekend the reasons behind his decision to sell remained unclear.
A father of four, Mr Caudwell lives in a #10 million, 65-room Grade 1-listed Staffordshire mansion.
In addition to Phones 4U, one of the country's largest specialist mobile phone retailers, the Caudwell Group houses complementary businesses such as Dextra, which claims to be Europe's largest distributor of mobile-phone products, and the fixed-line operation Caudwell Communications.
It also owns Cornerstone Resourcing, a recruitment company.