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Updated: Retail tycoon Philip Day withdraws from race to acquire LK Bennett

Lauretta Roberts
31 March 2019

Philip Day, the retail tycoon behind Edinburgh Woollen Mill, tabled a last-minute bid to acquire premium fashion and footwear chain LK Bennett, but has withdrawn the offer leaving three main ruiners in the race.

Day, who also owns brands including Jaeger, Austin Reed and his emerging Days department store chain, is reported to have lodged a last-minute bid with administrator EY and had been running the rule over the retailer's numbers this weekend, according to The Sunday Times. However by Sunday evening, The Telegraph had reported that the offer, described as "uncompetitive" had been withdrawn.

Day was one of a number of parties believed to be in the frame to buy the retailer, which was placed into the hands of administrators in early March, having called in advisers from Alix Partners in February to investigate options for its future.

Other interested parties include Sports Direct's Mike Ashley who lodged an early indicative bid (which is reported to be "competitive"), footwear chain Dune and Chinese franchisee Rebecca Feng, who has established a UK entity called Byland with the purpose of using it to make a bid.

It is believed Feng is being assisted in her bid by former LK Bennett CEO Darren Topp. Topp had been CEO at the firm from 2015-2017 and orchestrated the return of its founder Linda Bennett.

Bennett had sold a majority stake in the firm she founded in 1997 to Phoenix Equity Partners in 2008 for a reported £100m, though retained a shareholding. Topp, who had been brought in by former chairman Robert Bensoussan to execute a turnaround, brought Bennett back as a consultant and she went on to buy out Phoenix.

However the firm ran into trouble and, after Bennett failed to find more investment (she had reportedly invested £11m herself), it was placed into administration.

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