Last year Early Learning Centre was acquired from 3i and its managers by Tim Waterstone and Eagle Retail Investments for £62m. Waterstone, founder of the eponymous bookstore chain, also owns the Daisy & Tom toy shop chain and made a bid for Hamley’s last year. He and chief executive Nigel Robertson are now rationalising operations across the business, which has 215 stores, including three new out-of-town “playstores”, and more than 50 shops abroad. Headquartered in Swindon, Eearly Learning Centre had sales of £174m in 2004.
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