French Connection turned down bid from former All Saints CEO

French Connection

French Connection turned down an offer from the former CEO of All Saints, Stephen Craig, before the retailer was taken off the market.

On 19 December 2019 Retail Restructuring, along with Craig and two private equity firms made a bid of 41.1p per share for the chain, which represented an 18% premium on its share price.

It has emerged that the bid was not recommended to French Connection shareholders, a fact that has only now become known following the expiration of a non-disclosure agreement.

Barry Knight of Retail Restructuring said in a statement: “Stephen, myself and our other partners were both disappointed and particularly surprised at the decision. We believe the offer was at the correct level and in the best interests of all the stakeholders and employees of French Connection. 

“We had spent over 12 months producing and modelling a detailed turnaround plan. The process involved having numerous meetings with senior management. The plan which ran to more than 100 pages long addressed both the current issues facing the company and identified new revenue opportunities. 

“As we are not considering making a further offer we would like to take this opportunity to wish French Connection and its staff all the best in what is the most challenging time the retail sector has ever known.” 

Craig led All Saints from 2006 to October 2011 during which time it grew from sales of £14m to £300m. All Saints had been owned by the collapsed Icelandic group Baugur and ran in to financial difficulty but was sold to private equity house Lion Capital in May 2011 with Craig leaving a few months later.

French Connection announced on 31 January that a long sale process had concluded with no suitable buyer having been found and that it would continue with its restructuring plans. The business had been on the market since October 2018.

Its chairman, CEO and founder Stephen Marks holds a 42% stake in the business which he founded in 1972, while Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group holds a near 30% stake. Its revenue fell 11.4% to £119.9 million for the 12 months to 31 January and in April it appointed WH Ireland Limited as sole broker and financial adviser to the Company.