Jul 22, 2019
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Ashley, Day and Ben Sherman owner reportedly eyeing Jack Wills

Jul 22, 2019

Bidding for Jack Wills is getting under way with reports suggesting that as many as six interested parties are in the race or considering making bids. They’re said to include the UK’s two most acquisitive retail tycoons — Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley and Edinburgh Woollen Mill’s Philip Day. 

Jack Wills

Other interested names are believed to include Ben Sherman owner Marquee Brands, and Johan Eliasch, the Swedish billionaire who runs the sportswear brand Head. Turnaround funds Alteri and Hilco bare also looking at it, several Sunday newspapers reported. Crew Clothing had been said to be interested but is believed to have ruled itself out.

The Sunday Times said a deal could happen within a fortnight and the need is urgent with press reports that one of the firm’s properties has been seized by its landlord over rent non-payment. The St Albans store closed on Friday, although Jack Wills called the issue an “unfortunate misunderstanding”. 

The Telegraph reported that if the company fails to find a buyer, its lenders could lose as much as £30 million. That may seem an unlikely prospect given the large number of potential bidders, but the big issue is whether current majority owner BlueGem Capital is prepared to sell at the price they might offer.

We know already that both Ashley (who paid just £90 million for House of Fraser) and Day (whose recent Bonmarché buyout valued the company at less than £6 million) like to grab distressed businesses at bargain price tags.

BlueGem, which last week sold its 40% stake in success story Liberty London, wants to offload struggling Jack Wills that has seen its losses mounting in the last few years. It has only held its stake since 2016 and has invested heavily in the company but with no sign of an upturn after the millions it has pumped in. The retailer’s losses reached almost £30 million last year.

Its main lender, HSBC, could lose £30 million if the sale process is unsuccessful and a pre-pack administration is the end result.

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