Former BHS owner preparing bid

Category: Business 72 0

The former BHS owner, Dominic Chappell, says he is preparing a bid to buy BHS out of administration.

He told the BBC the administrators had been informed and talks with US based investors were at a “mature” stage.

However, a senior retail source also informed the BBC they were “extremely sceptical” about the move, given Mr Chappell’s recent track record.

BHS went into administration on Monday, putting 11,000 jobs at risk.

So far the administrators of BHS have received 50 expressions of interest in the company – some for all of it, most for parts of it.

Mr Chappell said he was interested in buying the whole group minus 40 loss-making stores, now that the pension fund is to be taken over by the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

“Our hands have been untied now that the pension situation has been resolved,” he told the BBC.

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Mr Chappell is the majority shareholder of Retail Acquisitions which bought BHS for £1 last year from Sir Philip Green, and took on a £571m pension deficit.

On Tuesday last week he moved £1.5m to a company called BHS Sweden, unconnected to BHS, which was owned by a friend and fellow board member of Mr Chappell at Retail Acquisitions.

On learning of this, BHS chief executive Darren Topp demanded its return on Wednesday and on Thursday it was returned minus £50,000, to reflect, said Mr Chappell, the foreign exchange costs.

‘Trade as usual’

Meanwhile, Sir Philip Green has been asked to appear in front of a cross-party committee of MPs to face questions about BHS’ collapse and the impact it might have on the PPF, which will now have to take over the BHS pension liabilities.

One Labour MP John Mann, and member of the Treasury select committee, has said Sir Philip must repay £400m of dividends that were paid out of BHS, or give up his knighthood.

The pensions regulator is also investigating whether BHS’s previous owners sought to avoid their obligations.

The shops continue to operate as normal and on Tuesday reported their strongest day of trading since the business was acquired by Retail Acquisitions. Trading was up 80% compared to the same day last year.

Restructuring firm Duff & Phelps, who have been appointed joint administrators, said in a statement: “The group will continue to trade as usual whilst the administrators seek to sell it as a going concern.”

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