Debenhams is in talks with Mike Ashley's Fraser Group over possible rescue deal

Monday, 7th December 2020, 12:39 pm
Updated Monday, 7th December 2020, 1:34 pm

High street retailer Debenhams could be set for a lifeline as Mike Ashley’s Fraser Group has confirmed it is working on a possible last minute rescue.

The department store chain is currently set to shut all of its stores nationwide after administrators failed to find a buyer for the business.

The closures could happen by the end of next March, putting 12,000 jobs at risk.

“No certainty”

The Frasers group said there was no certainty” it could save the retail chain.

The group has warned that unless talks can be concluded quickly, it may not be able to rescue the 242-year-old company.

The administrators for Debenhams began the process of closing the company for good last week, after JD sports decided not to make an offer to buy out the business.

This happened just a day after the Arcadia Group, which is run by retail mogul and Mike Ashley rival, Philip Green, went into administration.

Debenhams currently has 124 shops nationwide with 12,000 employees likely to lose their jobs if the company doesn't secure a buyer.

The retailer has already cut 6,500 jobs since May with efforts to stay alive.

Who is Mike Ashley?

Mike Ashley is the founder of Sports Direct and the owner of House of Fraser. He is also the owner of Newcastle United football club, having bought it in 2007 for £135 million.

Ashley had already made an offer to buy Debenhams when it was initially put up for sale in April, but the bid, thought to be in the range of £125 million, was rejected for being too low.

However, it is understood that the Fraser Group was only interested in taking on around 30 of the 124 Debenhams stores in the UK.

In a statement issued on Monday, Frasers Group said that while it hopes a rescue package can be put in place and jobs can be saved, “time is short and the position is further complicated by the recent administration of the Arcadia Group".

“There is no certainty that any transaction will take place, particularly if discussions cannot be concluded swiftly," the Group added.

It is thought that the latest move by Ashley’s Fraser Group will be the last attempt at securing the retailer.

Ashley used to have a 29 per cent stake in the high street chain, but his £150m holding was wiped out following the retailer's fall into administration last year.