Billionaire retail tycoon Mike Ashley is reportedly trying to rescue Debenhams in a bid that could save 12,000 jobs.
Ashley, who founded retail giant Frasers Group and was previously a major Debenhams shareholder, is reportedly trying to thrash out a deal that would see the retailer valued at more than £200m.
The retailer went into liquidation earlier this week, just days after the collapse of Sir Phillip Green’s Arcadia Group retail empire that owns Topshop, Burton and Evans.
JD Sports, which is a part of Ashley’s Frasers Group, previously abandoned a bid to buy Debenhams on Tuesday.
The Sunday Times reports that Frasers is looking to close a deal that would see it operate Debenhams’ 124 stores on 12-month licences.
It has been a terrible year for British retail, with Arcadia, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Peacocks, Monsoon Accessorize and TM Lewin all going bust this year due to Covid restrictions.
Frasers’ finance director Chris Wootton told the Times: “We hope to be able to save as many jobs as possible.
“However, we have found that Debenhams has been overly reliant on Arcadia for many years, and with the administration of Arcadia last week, as well as no end in sight to the outdated business rates regime which unduly punishes the likes of Debenhams, it may be a bridge too far.”
Debenhams previously fell into administration in April last year and was taken over by its shareholders.
Ashley at the time tried to buy the retailer, however he was turned down.
If his attempted rescue is now successful then it would see the unification of House of Fraser and Debenhams – a long held ambition for the former Newcastle United owner.