Follow us


French Connection narrows losses as founder Stephen Marks confirms retirement

Lauretta Roberts
12 October 2021

French Connection revealed narrowing losses as its founder Stephen Marks confirmed plans to retire once a takeover of the company is completed.

Last week, Marks agreed to the sale of the fashion business he founded nearly 50 years ago for £29 million to MIP Holdings, which is led by its second largest shareholder, Apinder Singh Ghura.

Marks, who is both chairman and chief executive, confirmed he would retire once the acquisition is completed.

This is an appropriate time for me to step back from the business that I founded in 1972, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our people for their contribution to our achievements over the years,” he said, “I wish them all every success in the future.”

Marks, who is now 75 is expected to bank around £12 million from the MIP deal. The business has been seeking buyers on and off for a number of years but no sale deals were ever agreed.

At the start of the year, Frasers chief Mike Ashley, offloaded his shares in the business, which were picked up by Singh Ghura, who held nearly 25% of the shares before making a formal offer for business last month. Marks held almost 44% of the company's shares.

French Connection had been hit hard by the pandemic and Marks formally put the business on the market in March, after it tumbled to a £12 million loss for the year to January.

In the latest update, the company posted an underlying loss of £900,000 for the six months to July, compared with a £3.6 million loss for the same period in 2019.

It revealed that group revenues dropped by 21.2% to £40.2 million for the period as it was affected by its restructuring efforts and pandemic restrictions.

Marks added: “I am pleased that the improvement in business we saw in the early part of the period has continued throughout the first half of the financial year. Wholesale in both the UK and the US has performed well, with a good outcome to the summer season.

“Over the last five years, French Connection has made significant progress in its plans to rationalise the size of its store portfolio and to return the group to profitability.”

The deal marks the end of a fascinating career for one of the high street's best-known, but most low-profile, bosses.

Early in his career as a fashion wholesaler, Marks was dubbed “The Hotpants King” after recognising the growing trend in Paris and successfully bringing it to the UK to be sold in Miss Selfridge.

He went on to establish French Connection in 1972 selling cheesecloth shirts he had acquired in France to the UK market. French designer Nicole Fahri joined the business in 1975 and Marks and Fahri became partners, and had a child together.

Fahri went on to launch her own label within the French Connection group in 1983 and the business was eventually sold in 2010.

After faltering in the 1980s, Marks took back creative control of French Connection, which enjoyed a heyday in the 90s with its cheeky FCUK advertising and t-shirts, however the brand has struggled to re-kindle the spark it had in that era in recent years and had been undergoing a rationalisation to cut stores and stem losses.

A keen tennis player and supporter of the sport, Marks has also invested in the Hard Rock Cafe and helped to finance Guy Ritchie films including Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels during his career.

Free NewsletterVISIT