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Judge issues winding-up order against "rudderless ship" Debenhams, as Boohoo buys brand and website

Lauretta Roberts
25 January 2021

Debenhams has been wound up by a judge in a specialist court, following news this morning that online fashion group Boohoo has bought the brand and website, but not its stores.

Judge Daniel Schaffer made a winding-up order at an online hearing in the Insolvency and Companies Court on Monday.

He described the retailer as a “rudderless ship” drifting in an “ocean of insolvency” which needs to be brought into port. The judge said the Official Receiver now should assess the position.

He had been asked to consider Debenhams’ position by lawyers representing a shareholder and debtors. The judge said he was making a winding-up order of his own motion.

"The company is a rudderless ship drifting in an ocean of insolvency, unable to be rescued,” he said.

“It is time for the court to bring this ship into port, so the harbour master, here the Official Receiver, can assess the position.”

Judge Schaffer made a winding-up order after news emerged that Boohoo has bought the brand and website for £55m. The deal will see Debenhams products sold by Boohoo from early next year.

Debenhams had already announced significant job losses and the permanent closure of six stores, including its flagship outlet on London’s Oxford Street.

Boohoo said the deal represents a “fantastic opportunity” to target new customers and launch into the beauty, sports and homewares market for the first time.

Debenhams had been in administration since the start of Lockdown 1 last Spring. It began liquidation proceedings at the start of December, a day after its largest concessionaire, Arcadia Group, called in the administrators.

Fellow online fashion group ASOS is in pole position to acquire the Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge brands from Arcadia having confirmed this morning that it is in exclusive talks with administrators for Arcadia, Deloitte.

Boohoo had been an early contender to acquire Topshop, having snapped up a raft of brands in recent years to convert into online-only entities including Karen Millen, Coast, Oasis and Warehouse.

More analysis on Debenhams and Boohoo to come later today.

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