High street billionaire Sir Philip Green has sold department store struggler Bhs to little-known group Retail Acquisitions for an undisclosed sum, believed to £1.
The Arcadia boss, whose empire includes Burton, Miss Selfridge and Top Shop, has owned the fading chain for nearly 15 years.
Bhs has 171 stores and 11,000 employees, but is loss-making. It has narrowed its pretax losses but Sir Philip, who tried to buy Marks & Spencer in 2006, said he was happy to find a buyer who wants to develop the brand.
He said one of his clear objectives in identifying a purchaser was ensuring their desire to take the business forward, although there is speculation that the buyer is acting as a shell and will seek to sell it on.
“The business is handed over in a sound financial position with significant cash balances and banking facilities in place,” he said in a statement. “I am confident that Retail Acquisitions Limited have a platform to grow the business and return it to profitability.
“Most of the senior management have been with BHS for a long time and know the business very well – I am confident that they will work seamlessly with the new owners to achieve the very best for BHS.”
Retail Acquisitions was created at the end of last year, changing its name from Swiss Rock Ventures earlier this month. Directors, according to Drapers, are understood to include Lennart David Henningson, Dominic Chappell, Stephen Charles Bourne and Mark Tasker. The new owner approached former Thomas Cook boss Harriet Green (pictured, no relation to Sir Philip) to head the chain but she declined the offer.
The chairman of Retail Acquisitions Keith Smith said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to breathe new life into this iconic British high street brand. We are convinced that with strategic and focussed support we will return BHS to profitability, and safeguard the workforce.
“By backing the existing management and investing in their plan, we are confident that we can build upon many of the initiatives already in place.”
Smith said the business would appoint a chairman with “significant retail experience and further retail turnaround experts in due course.”