Around 2,000 Peacocks jobs saved in rescue deal

Administrators have brokered a deal between an international consortium and former owner Philip Day which will see him leave the UK retail scene.

A Peacocks store
A Peacocks store

Collapsed fashion chain Peacocks has been saved by a senior executive with backing from an international consortium, it has been announced.

Chief operating officer Steve Simpson will take over the business, saving 2,000 jobs and 200 stores, which he hopes to reopen once lockdown restrictions on non-essential retailers ease.

The chain was part of retail mogul Philip Day’s Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) fashion empire which collapsed in November last year.

Mr Day was the biggest creditor of Peacocks and is owed money by the business he once owned.

Administrators FRP negotiated a deal with him by signing a deferred loan agreement between a consortium of investors and the businessman which will eventually see him get his money out of the company.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill store front
The Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) brand was saved in similar fashion to Peacocks by former executives (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The consortium of international backers are primarily based in Dubai, where Mr Day lives.

A similar deal was set in place with the EWM and Bonmarche brands, while Mr Day’s other brand, Jaeger, was sold to Marks & Spencer, where it will become an online-only business.

The deal essentially sees the EWM brands – excluding Jaeger – reform under the old management led by Mr Simpson.

Mr Day will not be in control of the business – ending several decades of involvement in the UK high street – and will hope to recoup the cash he invested as a secured creditor through the deal.

Unsecured creditors, including landlords, suppliers and the taxman, will lose out and are unlikely to get their money back.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group retail business said it expressed its interest in acquiring the troubled Peacocks fashion chain, but was “repeatedly frustrated” by administrators.

The Sports Direct owner said it was hindered by an “unwillingness to engage substantively or to provide key financial information”, in an after hours stock market announcement.

It claimed that administrators at FRP Advisory and Peacocks’ secured creditor, Mr Day’s EWM (Group) Ltd, did not allow it “the same access to key stakeholders and information” as its eventual buyer.

Frasers said it has “repeatedly expressed its concerns” over the process since November and sent a letter regarding its frustrations to FRP on March 27.

Peacocks had 400 stores going into the pandemic a year ago and announced a series of job losses and store closures as it struggled to manage under the various restrictions.

The chain had a poor online presence compared with rivals and – along with Arcadia and Debenhams – struggled to recoup business through its websites, leading to its collapse.

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