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Scepticism greets report of Tillman bid for Jaeger

Industry observers have poured cold water on a press report that Harold Tillman wants to buy back Jaeger from its owner Better Capital.

The private equity firm bought the British brand when it was in serious financial difficulties in 2012. Tillman had controlled it for a decade but it and fellow British brand Aquascutum faltered under his tenure. Aquascutum is now owned by Chinese conglomerate YGM.

Confirming a report in the Mail on Sunday, Tillman told Drapers that he contacted Better Capital owner Jon Moulton two weeks ago. At Moulton’s request Tillman’s corporate advisor Castle Harbour has written to request a meeting. He claims to have arranged backing for his buy-back plan and says he has “a world-class team” to put into Jaeger. Tillman made his move before Christmas when Better Capital was hit by the collapse of one of its other investments, parcel delivery firm City Link, which called in administrators from Ernst & Young on Christmas Eve.

Better Capital acquired Jaeger for £19.5m and has since increased its investment to £56m. Led by chief executive Colin Henry, who was appointed in June 2013 to lead a five-year turnaround plan, Jaeger saw like-for-like sales rise 10% rise in the year to March 1, 2014. Total sales rose 12% to £79.4m while losses after tax narrowed to £9.9m from £12.6m the year before.

An industry observer commented: “As Jaeger is owned by private equity, of course it is for sale of the price is right, but it will be have to be a big cheque these days. This is a typical example of Harold Tillman playing the press. He has lost his credibility since the failure of Jaeger and Aquascutum. He really ought to stick to his charity work.”

Tillman responded to Drapers: “I have a 40-something-year record in the garment industry and no one gets it right all the time. But I understand the DNA of a fashion company like Jaeger.”

He hopes to meet Moulton in January. Better Capital and Jaeger declined to comment.

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