Time is ticking on Mike Ashley's company talks over its hope to rescue Debenhams

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has warned that unless talks can be concluded quickly, it may not be able to save Debenhams’ UK business.

Monday, 7th December 2020, 11:24 am
Updated Thursday, 10th December 2020, 11:37 pm

Frasers confirmed it is in negotiations with the department store’s administrators about a possible rescue deal which it hopes can save at least some of the 12,000 jobs that have been put at risk by the retailer’s potential liquidation.

However, there are complications, and if a deal is not agreed quickly, Frasers said it may not go ahead.

Debenhams has branches in the Bridges in Sunderland, Eldon Square in Newcastle and in Newport Road in Middlesbrough and closed its store in Waterloo Square in South Shields earlier this year.

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The Debenhams store in the Bridges, Sunderland, is among those at risk if the company cannot be saved.

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“Whilst Frasers Group hopes that a rescue package can be put in place and jobs saved, time is short and the position is further complicated by the recent administration of the Arcadia Group, Debenhams’ biggest concession holder,” it said.

“There is no certainty that any transaction will take place, particularly if discussions cannot be concluded swiftly.”

Last week saw a bloodbath on the high street as both Debenhams and Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia, which owns Topshop and Burton among others, were put at risk.

Frasers has also said the recent administration of Topshop-owner Arcadia, which is also Debenhams’ biggest concession holder, has complicated things further.

Last week, fears were raised about the futures of both Debenhams and Arcadia, potentially putting tens of thousands of jobs on the line.

Debenhams looked as though it might disappear from the high street after 242 years when JD Sports pulled out of a potential deal to buy the business out of administration.

Frasers finance boss Chris Wootton signalled over the weekend that his company might be interested in a deal for Debenhams, in an interview with the Sunday Times.

“We hope to be able to save as many jobs as possible,” he told the paper.

“However, we have found that Debenhams has been overly reliant on Arcadia for many years, and, with the administration of Arcadia last week, as well as no end in sight to the outdated business rates regime which unduly punishes the likes of Debenhams, it may be a bridge too far.”

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