Dragons’ Den star Peter Jones is likely to bid for Blacks Leisure after the retailer fell into administration.
The stricken retailer, which has 208 Millets stores, 98 Blacks outlets and employs around 3,600 staff, hopes most of the business will be salvaged by buyers.
Blacks put itself up for sale after poor trading results, but admitted it has failed to find an outright buyer. However the assets, brands and trade of the group have attracted interest and Blacks is expected to announce the appointment of administrators in the next few days.
The retailer’s shares have been suspended because the pre-pack administration deal will attach no value to the company’s stock.
Jones is currently the longest serving “dragon” on the hit BBC programme, while The Sunday Times Rich List estimates his worth at about £220m. He founded Phones International Group in 1998 and acts as chairman and chief executive for the company. Jones’ business portfolio covers television, media, leisure and property, as well as mobile phones.
But Jones is not believed to be the only potential buyer. Sportswear firm JD Sports and Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct are also likely to make an approach.
Buyers will be allowed to cherry-pick Blacks’ best assets, including the profitable stores, and it is hoped that this will save many of the jobs. But some job losses are expected to go at the company’s head office and warehouse in Northampton, which costs Blacks about £26m a year, including wages and rent.
Blacks will operate as normal while details of the deal are worked out. Most of its £36m of debt would be wiped out under a pre-pack deal, while its worst-performing stores would be shut.
Sports Direct currently owns 22.5 per cent of Blacks Leisure and is one of the favourites to buy the firm out of administration. There were initially concerns over the group’s future after Sports Direct had walked away from early buy-out talks, causing speculation there was a lack of interest.
Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Mountain Warehouse were also been mooted as potential buyers for Blacks, but they are no longer thought to be among the likely bidders.