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Austin Reed awaits ‘white knight’ as deadline looms

The fate of Austin Reed Group could be decided this week after several parties – including Sports Direct – expressed interest in buying part or all of the business.

The group, which comprises men’s and women’s tailoring business Austin Reed, and womenswear retailers CC and Viyella, collapsed into administration on April 26, putting almost 1,200 jobs at risk.

This week, reports emerged that Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley has tabled a surprise bid for the business, while last week Touker Suleyman, owner of menswear brand Hawes & Curtis and womenswear label Ghost, confirmed he would be interested in “parts” of Austin Reed.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill chief executive Philip Day is also thought to be considering a bid.

The deadline for final offers is Friday May 13. Administrator AlixPartners said has received more than 50 expressions of interest.

However, one industry source said: “There seems to be no white knight to save it yet.”

Another observer said that it was likely Alteri Investors would buy the business back to run on a smaller scale, and that a decision could be made this week. Alteri bought the group on April 15, a week before it went into administration.

A menswear industry source said: “The consensus is that the Austin Reed business does have some legs but the womenswear is a basket case. Someone like Philip Day might pick up CC to go with Edinburgh Woollen Mill, but Viyella would be more difficult because of the licensing agreements.

“The businesses have a centralised Warehouse and a shared buying office, but different buyers for each brands, so it could be broken up relatively easily.”

He raised concerns about the possible impact on those suppliers owed money by Austin Reed and warned it could have grave consequences.

“A lot of suppliers are very exposed to Austin Reed, which could have very significant consequences across the industry. They are working on a case-by-case basis [to pay people] but there are some big debts there, which is worrying.”

Alteri was unavailable for comment. AlixPartners declined to comment further.


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