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Jack Wills receives bids from Philip Day and Crew Clothing

Lauretta Roberts
22 July 2019

Jack Wills, the struggling preppy fashion retailer which has been put up for sale by its private equity owner, is reported to have received interest from billionaire retail tycoon Philip Day and Crew Clothing among others.

Should he be successful Day would add Jack Wills to a burgeoning retail portfolio, built up largely through acquisitions of struggling businesses, which includes Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Jacques Vert, Jaeger, Austin Reed and most recently Bonmarche among others. However he must see off competition from fellow billionaire, the Swede Johan Eliash, who runs sports brand Head and Crew Clothing.

A number of restructuring firms, including Hilco, are also believed to be in the running to buy the business in process that is being led by KPMG.

Jack Wills has been struggling for some time and reported pre-tax losses of £29.3m on sales of £139.5m in the year to January 2018. Last year the company parted ways with its founder Peter Williams for the second time and replaced him at the head of the business with Suzanne Harlow, a former trading director of Debenhams.

Williams had originally left the business in 2013 but returned in 2016 in partnership with private equity business BlueGem to buy the business back from long term investor Inflexion. However he fell out with BlueGem over the future strategy.

Under Williams' second tenure the retailer expanded its retail footprint beyond its traditional base of upmarket coastal and market towns into more mainstream destinations and expanded its wholesale operations, which was said to have tied up valuable cash.

Despite injecting further capital in the business along with Italian businessman Giorgio Girondi, BlueGem could not turn the business around sufficiently and appointed KPMG to investigate its options. According to sources a deal for could be completed in the next two weeks.

If so, it would mark the second deal in quick succession for BlueGem, which announced the sale of luxury department store Liberty to a private equity-led consortium on Friday, which valued the retailer at £300m.

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