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Former MK One director linked to Ethel Austin rescue

Elaine Gray, the former chief executive of MK One, is understood to be close to finalising a deal to rescue value chain Ethel Austin.

The Sunday Times said yesterday that Gray had provisionally agreed a refinancing deal with a consortium of investors including Credit Suisse, Eos Partners and ABN Amro, which bought the business in 2004. However the newspaper added that the chain could still face administration.

Rumours of poor trading have dogged the Ethel Austin chain since 2006. The company completed a debt for equity exchange to release some of its debt burden last year. Debts levels went down from £57m to £20m but trade is understood to have continued to be difficult despite the retailer repositioning from its value roots to become a more fashion-led chain.

Gray, who has close links with Sir Philip Green, is a well respected operator in the value market. She grew the MK One business to sales of £139m and EBITDA of £14.8m in 2004, before selling the chain for £44m to Baugur.

Readers' comments (5)

  • Was looking to see if The Mail on Sundays (Finance section) story would be followed up in Drapers.
    Bauger / Mosaiic; 4 months late with filing accounts????????//

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  • Every Monday Drapers publishes a weekly round up of the weekend's best fashion business related stories. We flagged the Mail on Sunday's story within that yesterday. Click here to read our round up of the stories from April 5-6 and please feel free to add your comments about the business headlines in the comment box at the bottom.
    Jessica Price Brown, managing editor and news editor, Drapers

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  • How can Elaine Grey be described as about to Rescue Ethel Austin when she called in administrators after buying 87% of the debt. Staff at Ethel Austin where told about going into Administration on Tuesday at 1.30pm and told that they would find out if they have a job by 1pm the following day. It took until 3pm to be told that 90% the B&m team had lost their jobs and a simalar proportion fron the DC. Elaine Grey has put the business up for sale and there will be an advert in the Times on Friday. So if the business is up for sale, then why was she showing her buying team around stores on Wednesday when all the current buyers where being made redundant.

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  • I work for Ethel Austin in one of their stores and this is the best thing that has happened to the company in years. This will mean better working conditions for employees, more hours and more staff in stores. No more Ogden and Cooper sitting on their backsides and head office collecting their fat pay cheques. I would love to know what these 181 people did at head office when the stores were run with 4 staff members doing the work of 10.

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  • I would like to respond to the anonymous person who stated that this has been the best thing that has happened to Ethels, while this might be true and something did have to be done, why attack your fellow employee's? You asked what the 181 people at HO did while stores were understaffed? Firstly I can assure you that everyone at HO worked very hard to turn the business around, working long hours and putting all their resources into securing the company's future! The 181 people to refer to are now out of work and you still have a job, so be thankful! I, like you, still have my job, instead of attacking why not work together to secure a better future for us all!

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