Racing legend Bill Gredley takes a punt on Ipswich Debenhams

Debenhams in Ipswich.

Ipswich Debenhams has been bought by property giant the Unex Group, founded and chaired by racing legend Bill Gredley. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Ipswich's Debenhams store has been sold to a property company headed by one of East Anglia's richest men, we can reveal today.

The store on the Cornhill has been bought by the Unex Group, which is based just outside Newmarket in the Cambridgeshire village of Stetchworth.

The company is chaired by legendary racehorse owner and breeder Bill Gredley, who is listed in The Sunday Times Rich List as being worth £259m.

Bill Gredley

Bill Gredley is chairman of the Unex Group. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Mr Gredley, 88, is one of the best-known figures in British racing. He also owns the Stetchworth Park Stud and has owned a number of winners of racing Classics.

It is understood that Unex paid about £3m for the Debenhams building - but the company has not yet said what its plans are for the building. The sale is due to be completed at the start of next month.

The move has been widely welcomed in the town - Unex Group has undertaken a number of prestigious developments in East Anglia and London, including the Fraser House/Maple Court development in Princes Street in Ipswich.

Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement has worked with Unex Group in the past over many years and welcomed the news. He said: "I am delighted that the building has been acquired by a strong local business that comes with a track record for redevelopment.

"Unex are known to us well and we will be looking to open discussions about the future of the  building as soon as possible."

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Ipswich Council leader David Ellesmere was also pleased at the news - the borough had been contacted by Unex Group before the purchase was confirmed last week.

He said: "We haven't heard from them since the purchase - but we are pleased it has been bought by a company that knows the area and has experience of many successful developments. We look forward to working with them on the future of this vital building for the town."

It is thought unlikely that a single occupier, like another department store, could be found to take over the site - but it is expected that the Unex Group will be looking to adapt the 1970s-built store rather than clearing the site.

Unex are understood to have beaten other developers to buy the building - and what has pleased business leaders in the town centre is that the company finances development projects from its own resources. It does not rely on bank loans to finance its redevelopment plans.

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