Chappell in bold bid for bust BHS's overseas stores

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The controversial former owner of failed retailer BHS has proposed a deal to rescue its international arm, curbing his previous ambitions to buy the whole group.

Retail Acquisitions, led by former racing driver Dominic Chappell, has made an offer for the overseas franchise operation, which spans 14 countries and generates annual sales of £40 million.

Its decision not to swoop for the core British business comes despite Chappell telling the Standard two weeks ago that he was meeting US investors to discuss buying BHS back from administrators. At the time his hopes to regain control of the firm were dubbed “pure fantasy” by a BHS spokesman. 

Retail Acquisitions, which could not be reached for comment, was among a number of investors that lodged offers to buy part or all of the 164-store chain with administrator Duff & Phelps yesterday.

The thrice-bankrupt Chappell said yesterday that his Retail Acquisitions consortium had submitted a bid, but declined to specify whether it covered the whole of BHS or part of it. 

Offers came two weeks after the retailer, which employs some 11,000, went under just 13 months after it was sold for £1 by the retail veteran Sir Philip Green to the little-known Retail Acquisitions.

BHS has had an international franchise operation since 1985, operating in Gibraltar, Russia and the Middle East.

One of BHS’s prospective white knights, the property millionaire Yousuf Bhailok, has designs on expanding the overseas arm, and noted that stores in Oman and Qatar have been particularly profitable.

Offers from Bhailok and Retail Acquisitions are among those submitted, although only a handful — thought to be five — were made to buy the bulk of the business.

Other interested parties are believed to include Ikea, discount retailer B&M, Sports Direct, and Edinburgh Woollen Mill boss Philip Day.

Administrators will put the bids to secured creditors for consideration. A decision is expected within days.

Although loss-making BHS had come under fire for not adapting to the modern retail world, chief executive Darren Topp and the former owner had worked over the last 12 months to spruce up the business and make it more attractive, including introducing food stores to its shops. But BHS ran out of cash after Retail Acquisitions failed to secure enough funding for a turnaround plan. BHS has a £571 million pension deficit.

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May 11, 2016 |
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