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Liberty owner joins forces with Jack Wills founder to buy chain

The owner of London department store Liberty has partnered with Jack Wills’ founder Pete Williams to acquire the fashion chain. 

Private equity firm BlueGem and Williams have become joint shareholders in a deal they said would lead to ”significant” growth for Jack Wills, both internationally and in the UK. Long term investor Inflexion, which had held a 27% stake in the business, has bowed out.

Mamas and Papas executive chairman Dereck Lovelock has joined Jack Wills as non-executive chairman.

Turnover at the preppy chain was up 4.1% to £137.4m in the period 2 February 2015 to 31 January 2016. However, gross margin dipped from 60.8% to 58.3%, which the company blamed on disrupted trading caused by a decision to outsource distribution. EBITDA fell from £8.7m in 2015 to £5.1m. 

Jack Wills opened four new stores during the period and outlined plans to open 13 more.

Williams stressed that the underlying financial health of Jack Wills was strong.

“The performance of the business during 2015/16 shows a real year of two halves with a dramatic improvement in profitability in the second half. The numbers clearly show that momentum has returned and significant results are being delivered. Importantly, this improvement in trading has continued into the first half of the current year.”

 The company also revealed it is working on a new initiative, dubbed The Fabric of Jack, to increase transparency in its supply chain.

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