Sir Philip Green sells BHS to Retail Acquisitions ‘for £1’
Sir Philip Green has sold department store chain BHS to an investment vehicle called Retail Acquisitions Ltd.
The BBC understands the asking price for BHS was as low as £1.
BHS was part of the Arcadia Group, controlled by Sir Philip, which still includes TopShop, Burton and Evans.
The company was sold debt free, but one of the issues hampering deals has been the losses made by the chain. In 2013, it lost £69.6m on £675.7m of sales, down 3.5% on the previous year.
Founded in 1928 in London’s Brixton, BHS has 180 stores and employs almost 12,000 staff.
Control of BHS will pass over today, Arcadia Group said in a statement.
Sir Philip said: “I am pleased that we have found a buyer in Retail Acquisitions Ltd who wants to develop the BHS brand.
“Having acquired the business nearly 15 years ago in May 2000, one of my clear objectives in identifying a purchaser was ensuring their desire to take the business forward.”
Retail Acquisitions Ltd was set up last year to try to push through this deal, but may look to make more acquisitions in the future. The firm is backed by a number of investors including brokers and lawyers.
The company directors are former Formula 3000 racing driver and entrepreneur Dominic Chappell, former City finance house Nabarro Wells director Keith Smith, lawyer Edward Parladorio, and Lennart Henningson, a former senior advisor for HSN Nord Bank.
The firm plans to keep the BHS management structure in place, and will appoint a new chairman in due course.
BBC Business editor Kamal Ahmed understands that former Thomas Cook chief executive Harriet Green was approached to be the new BHS chair, but has declined the offer.
“The question for the new owners of BHS – and they are a pretty obscure bunch for the moment – is whether they can breathe new life into what has become a pretty dowdy constituent of the high street,” he added.
Keith Smith, who was made the chairman of Retail Acquisitions Ltd on Thursday, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to breathe new life into this iconic British high street brand.
“We are convinced that with strategic and focussed support we will return BHS to profitability, and safeguard the workforce.”
Joshua Raymond, chief market strategist at broker City Index, said Retail Acquisitions Ltd faces a “monumental” challenge in trying to turn around the fortunes of BHS.
“[Sir Philip] Green has been looking to sell the loss-making BHS business for years and now he has found a buyer, he can finally draw a line in the sand.”
“BHS has struggled to adapt to the digital age and increasing competition on the high street,” Mr Raymond added. “The challenge Retail Acquisitions now faces is monumental.”
Retail analyst Richard Hyman, of the richardtalksretail website, said that the decision to sell “will have been as close to painful for [Sir] Philip as any business decision will ever be”.
“His purchase of the brand was a master stroke.
“He saw value and restructuring potential which allowed him to go on and buy Arcadia and try to buy M&S too,” Mr Hyman said.
He added that BHS has a £100m pension liability.