Mike Ashley picks over Debenhams’ carcass

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group is attempting a “last-minute rescue” of Debenhams.

Mike Ashley’s (pictured) Frasers Group is attempting a “last-minute rescue” of Debenhams, the “stricken” UK department store chain, says Nic Fildes in the Financial Times. The talks between Frasers and the Debenhams’ liquidators are taking place “in good faith” despite Ashley’s “public war of words” with Sir Philip Green, whose Arcadia Group, which has also collapsed, owns a large number of concessions in Debenhams stores. 

Having lost £150m through his doomed equity investment in Debenhams, Mike Ashley “was bound to show up at the administrator’s door at the 11th hour to take another look”, says Nils Pratley in The Guardian. While Ashley won’t be “remotely interested” in owning all 124 Debenhams stores permanently, he may be able to find at least 40 or 50 “in decent locations”. While this means that many stores will still be closed, from the point of view of saving jobs, “any interest is better than none”.

If Ashley wants to own even a piece of the Debenhams empire he’ll have to move fast, says Joel Hills on ITV. He hopes that the fact that Debenhams is in administration means that he can “cherry-pick the assets”. However, Debenhams’ creditors, led by hedge fund Silver Point Capital, who effectively now determine the fate of the chain, may have other ideas. Indeed, they may decide that “they can raise more money by liquidating the stock and selling off the store leases”, even if this leads to all 12,000 workers losing their jobs. In any case, a deal will have to be done soon, as the closing-down sales “are already in full swing”.

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