A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE who started his career in Hampshire has sold his stake in the company he created for a massive £74.6m.

McCarthy and Stone founder John McCarthy and his family sold 13,447,435 shares at 555p per share.

The deal brought the curtain down on his 26-year history with the firm which he started in New Milton.

With Bill Stone, he built his first retirement scheme there in 1978 and went on to provide more than 70 per cent of Britain's private retirement housing.

Although he resigned from the board last year, Mr McCarthy was the last of the pair to remain linked to the business.

Mr Stone left in 1983 to concentrate on other business interests, including a private upmarket housing development.

Mr McCarthy's final months at the company he created were not all plain sailing.

Last year Mr McCarthy, then chairman, launched a family takeover bid for the company with sons Spencer and Clinton, who have built up a smaller rival business called Churchill Retirement Living, in an attempt to wrest back control.

The putsch failed and was rejected by the board, sparking a boardroom split.

In July he announced he would not be pursuing it. One month later he resigned as non-executive chairman. He had been due to retire on December 31.

His replacement at the helm, executive chairman Keith Lovelock, said: "This transaction marks the end of a long relationship between the company and John McCarthy, one of its founders.

"I am delighted that any uncertainty surrounding John's shareholding has been removed. We look forward to the future with confidence."

The Bournemouth based company, which has developments across Hampshire, has recently been buying back its own shares with five separate announcements to the Stock Exchange.