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Mike Ashley in talks over rescue bid for struggling HMV

Mike Ashley is considering a rescue bid for HMV, the music and film retailer that collapsed into administration last month.

The Sports Direct boss is understood to have held talks with suppliers to the ailing business about a rescue deal, which could see him link the HMV brand to other parts of his high street empire including House of Fraser, Sports Direct or potentially Game Digital, in which Sports Direct owns a 25% stake.

A successful deal for HMV’s 125 stores would see Ashley grab another major slice of the high street following Sports Direct’s acquisition of the bike specialist Evans Cycles in October and department store chain House of Fraser in August, both of which were bought out of administration.

While Ashley takes a look at many potential retail deals, and Sports Direct holds stakes in multiple high street chains including the struggling French Connection and Debenhams, ‎sources told Sky News – which first reported Ashley’s interest in HMV – that he was serious about buying the music retailer.

Ashley has also made clear his interest in Debenhams, which is seeking to refinance its debts by the end of this month after a torrid 2018. Ashley has offered to bail the department store chain out with a £40m loan on terms that would give him the whip hand over the company, in which Sports Direct already owns a near 30% stake.

 

Read More – www.theguardian.com

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Bestival music events firm bought for £1.1m

The Bestival and Camp Bestival music festivals have been snapped up by a multi-millionaire Dorset entrepreneur just days after a collapse into administration.

Richmond Group, controlled by the loan broker James Benamor, is buying the festival business after offering £1.1m for Bestival’s assets and brand. Richmond had lent Bestival Group £1.6m in February last year.

Benamor founded Amigo Loans, a Bournemouth-based company that offers quick guarantor-backed loans, which was floated on the stock exchange in July. The business is valued at more than £1bn and Benamor’s Richmond Group has a stake of 61%.

Julie Palmer, of the advisory firm Begbies Traynor, who was appointed administrator on 20 September, said she had received more than one offer for the business but Richmond’s was the best bid.

Bestival was launched in 2004 by DJ Rob Da Bank and this year was headlined by the performers Chaka Khan, Grace Jones and Thundercat. It began on the Isle of Wight but relocated to Lulworth Castle in Dorset in 2017.

Its sister festival, Camp Bestival, which launched in Dorset in 2006, is aimed at a family audience and this year featured Simple Minds and Rick Astley alongside Peppa Pig and Paddington.

In a statement Benamor said: “We have been fans and supporters of Bestival since the beginning. Our children have grown up with wonderful memories of these festivals. Bestival is an example of Dorset being world class and we are keen to ensure that this fantastic institution goes on to delight families and local businesses for many years to come.”

On the Camp Bestival website it said that tickets for the 2019 festival remained valid and there was “no reason to believe Camp Bestival won’t go ahead as planned”.

Hundreds of 2018 Camp Bestival attendees are still hoping for a refund after the festival was forced to close a day early in July because of poor weather. The company said the cancellation of the festival’s Sunday line-up this year was not the reason for its financial difficulties but said it had not been “a positive factor for the business”.

Richmond Group said that under the terms of its offer all Camp Bestival 2019 tickets sold so far would be honoured.

Read More – www.theguardian.com

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LadBible moves closer to acquiring fellow viral publisher Unilad

LadBible has moved closer to taking control of rival Unilad after administrators handling the fire sale of the collapsed viral Facebook publisher informed several bidders they were out of the running.

Unilad’s administrator, Leonard Curtis, has been informing about six formal bidders that an agreement has been reached to enter an exclusivity period with one party.

A spokesman for LadBible would not confirm whether it was still involved in the process. If the company is successful it will have been chosen despite not having submitted the highest bid.

LadBible is thought to have submitted an offer totaling about £12.5m, comprising £7.5m plus a £5m credit for the Unilad debt that was owed to its founder, Alex Partridge, which it acquired after the administrator was appointed last Thursday.

This put LadBible in a commanding position. The highest bid, thought to be in the region of £20m, is understood to have been rejected in part because it was considered more financially complex and unlikely to be finalised quickly enough for Unilad to keep running smoothly. Leonard Curtis did not return a request for comment on the bidding process.

The shotgun administration, giving potential buyers just days to submit bids, has been heavily criticised by a number of the bidders. One is known to have appointed a law firm to take advice on the process.

Bidders that have been publicly named include Manchester-based Social Chain, the smaller-scale Facebook publisher The Hook, the social media agency Goat and Unilad’s existing financial backer Linton Capital – whose managing partner, David Sefton, is Unilad’s interim chief executive – in conjunction with the online media group Jungle Creations.

One bidder said the bizarre nature of the fight for Unilad meant the battle was not over yet, adding: “Until I see an official statement confirming a deal is done, anything could still happen”.

A report has named Unilad as the top Facebook publisher for September. According to the analytics company NewsWhip, Unilad.co.uk achieved 32.5m likes, shares and comments on its content during the month, ahead of Ladbible.com (28.9m) and Foxnews.com (27.8m).

Last week Unilad went into administration putting hundreds of jobs at risk, after its parent company, Bentley Harrington, revealed debts of more than £6m – including £1.5m to HMRC.

The company, which began life as a student “banter” page, is one of the world’s biggest publishers of viral content. Hundreds of employees are based at its headquarters in Manchester and it has secondary offices in east London and New York.

Many viral publishers have struggled to translate their enormous reach into a profitable business model owing to the high cost of making bespoke native ads. Sources in the advertising industry suggested many agencies had cut back their dealings with Unilad before Thursday.

Unilad’s co-chief executive Sam Bentley left the company in June after unspecific allegations of historical misconduct against it, and Unilad said other staff had been disciplined as a result of an internal investigation.

Unilad shares a founder with LadBible but is now entirely separate from its fellow Manchester-based business. Last week, financial filings at Companies House showed LadBible’s revenues rose by a quarter to £15m last year, as pre-tax profits almost doubled to £3.7m.

 

Read More – www.theguardian.com

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House Of Fraser Cancels All Online Orders!

Beleaguered British department store House of Fraser is cancelling all online orders and will be refunding thousands of customers potentially millions of pounds after a dispute with its warehouse operator held up deliveries.

The decision comes “after the chain’s website was taken offline amid complaints from customers about delayed deliveries since the company was bought by Sports Direct for £90m last week”, says Sky News.

XPO logistics, which operates a House of Fraser distribution centre in Wellingborough, “has told employees to stop accepting orders from the department store”, reports The Times.

 

House of Fraser has told over 1,000 suppliers it will not pay money owed before 10 August, when Sports Direct bought the chain out of administration.

But XPO has halted work as it tries to convince Sports Direct to honour existing contract terms.

“We have taken the decision to cancel and refund all orders that have not already been sent to customers,” the department store said on Facebook.

“We didn’t take this decision lightly, but since we cannot give our customers clear assurances of when their orders will be delivered, we believe cancellation is the best option.”

A source close to Sports Direct told The Guardian it had been forced to cancel orders as XPO was being “totally unreasonable in terms of their demands” and was “refusing to engage in any process” which would “move the situation forward”.

“XPO is trying to hold us to ransom,” the source said.

Sports Direct “has no legal obligation to pay suppliers money owed before its buyout as their debts were part of the administration”, adds the paper, but new owners “often agree to settle at least some of the debts in the interest of good relations”.

The announcement that online orders have been cancelled “has caused anger among customers”, says the BBC.

Read Full Article – www.theweek.co.uk