The corridors of power …

Ten months later, the process has advanced at a pace worthy of a Zimmer frame.

Advisers insist that the company is running a dual-track process, assessing bids from venture capitalists with one hand, and pursuing a possible stock market flotation with the other. They say that the outcome will be decided by October or November.

Saga has tentatively lined up Robert Walker, chief executive of Severn Trent, to take the post of chairman if the company comes to the stock market.

As with the Moores family and Littlewoods, this is all about a founding family that are looking to cash in its chips. Sidney De Haan, who founded Saga after the war, died last year, and his son, Roger, has decided to sell. The process has been marred by reports of a rift between Roger and his brother, Peter, who handed over his 25% stake in the business two years ago.

This means he will miss out on a potential £150m windfall. The De Haans insist that there is no rift – but, with all that cash sloshing around, you have to wonder.

Sidney De Haan was one of 11 children of a factory worker. He came up with the idea of cheap holidays for the elderly as a way of filling rooms at his hotel in Folkestone during the winter.

Today, travel is only a small part of the business, and 80% of its profits come from selling insurance. Saga’s real strength lies in its database.

The name ‘Saga’ is taken from the Nordic for adventure. Others prefer the light-hearted alternative: ‘Send A Granny Away.’

  • Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times

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