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Mike Ashley's Frasers Group eyes 30 Debenhams stores

Lauretta Roberts
09 August 2020

Mike Ashley's Frasers Group is reported to be eyeing 30 Debenhams stores to add to its retail empire.

According to the This Is Money website, which cites City sources, the retail tycoon may make a statement on the matter as early as this week. Frasers Group is due to update the market on trading this Thursday.

It is not clear whether the 30 stores in question are among those which Debenhams has not opened following lockdown.

Debenhams, which is considering a sale having been placed into "light touch" administration during lockdown, has reopened 124 stores.

Ashley has long harboured a desire to acquire the Debenhams chain but is reported to have  cooled on the idea during the COVID-19 crisis. 

He had previously owned almost 30% of Debenhams' shares when it was a listed company and tried to buy the business and install himself as CEO. However he was rebuffed repeatedly by its investors who placed the company into administration for the first time last spring and acquired it themselves.

However the consortium of investors, known as Celine Jersey Topco, was obliged to place the company into administration again during lockdown, claiming it was the only way to protect its interests. A sale is now under consideration as part of an administration exit plan.

Ashley already owns the House of Fraser department store chain having bought that out of administration in the summer of 2018. He is undertaking an "elevation" of the chain, in part with the development of a handful of higher end stores, containing his designer chain Flannels, which he has called Flannels.

However the chain has proved very challenging to turn around, even without the COVID-19 crisis, and Ashley admitted some of its problems had been "terminal".

Nonetheless he has continued to expand his empire and last year bought young fashion chain Jack Wills. He has also acquired stakes in both Mulberry and Hugo Boss this year.

Later this year Ashley plans to open a concept store in Leicester which will house a number of his businesses including Sports Direct, Flannels and USC.

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