Philip Day enters then exits LK Bennett bid race

Philip Day, the CEO and owner of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, has withdrawn from the race to buy collapsed fashion label LK Bennett.


LK Bennett

The British billionaire made a last-minute offer for the upmarket clothing brand on 25 March, hours before the deadline for final bids from prospective buyers.

A spokesperson for Day said his interest in the business was “soft” and that the decision to withdraw his offer was taken to avoid a bidding war.

“We have now withdrawn our interest from LK Bennett. Our interest was always limited, and we did not want to involve ourselves in a bidding war. As a result, we thought it best to remove ourselves from the process,” he said.

Day has made his fortune by buying struggling retailers and then turning them around. He acquired his first brand the Edinburgh Woollen Mill when it was barely turning a profit in 2001. Since then, he has added Jane Norman, Jaeger and Austin Reed to his portfolio.

Like Jaeger and Austin Reed, LK Bennett is a respected brand in the UK. It was founded by Linda Bennett in 1990 to bring “a bit of Bond Street luxury to the high street’, but the challenging trading conditions in the UK retail market and growing costs meant it made an operating loss of £5.9m in the year to July 2017.

Its former chief executive Darren Topp is understood to be working with a Chinese supplier to the brand to pursue an acquisition, with footwear retailer Dune and Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley have also expressed an interest.

Administrators Dan Hurd, Hunter Kelly and Craig Lewis of accountancy firm EY are expected to announce a buyer for the chain in the coming days.

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