Sir Tom Hunter and JD Sports Fashion are understood to be circling beleaguered designer mini-chain Cruise just one week after the business was linked to restructuring specialist Hilco.
Entrepreneur Hunter is believed to be the favourite to acquire Cruise through his private equity business West Coast Capital, which is currently seeking a sale of its Office footwear chain.
JD Sports Fashion, which owns young fashion chains Bank and Scotts as well as eponymous stores, is also thought to be circling Cruise which emerged from a pre-pack administration just 18 months ago.
Drapers revealed last week that restructuring firms including Hilco and GA Associates had made direct approaches to Cruise’s bank HBOS about buying its debt. It is unclear whether restructuring specialist Hilco is also still involved but GA Associates is thought to have stepped away from any deal.
The 12-store retailer has suffered a sharp decline in sales after its customers stopped splashing out on designer goods in the wake of the austerity Budget and more recently because of the disruption to trade caused by the snow. Cruise’s stores are largely in Scotland and the north of England which have been worst hit by the bad weather.
Cruise emerged from a pre-pack administration 18 months ago after closing about six of its shops. The administration was blamed on the fact the business was owned by an Icelandic fund - Kcaj - which struggled to survive in the wake of the global banking meltdown and which could not deliver on its promises to support Cruise’s expansion plans.
Accounts filed at Companies House for Cruise Fashion, the parent company, showed the business had sales of £21.4m for the period between May 15, 2009 to January 30 this year. It made an operating loss of £315,000 over the period, but this was blamed on an exceptional cost of £478,000 relating to the reorganisation of the business post administration.
Hunter declined to comment and JD Sports Fashion was not available at the time of writing.