Mike Ashley, the billionaire owner of Newcastle United and Sports Direct, thinks he can acquire the BHS store chain and save all 11,000 jobs there. He told The Telegraph:
Ashley, told The Telegraph: “Any continuing interest that we have in BHS would be on the basis that we would anticipate that there would not be any job losses, including jobs at head office, and that all stores would remain open.”
It is understood that interest from Ashley and other senior retail figures including Edinburgh Woollen Mill founder Philip Day, has convinced administrators at Duff & Phelps that a deal for the entire company can be found that may prevent the BHS name from disappearing.
It’s not clear how serious or credible Ashley’s bid is. He had been in talks with BHS prior to the high street brand going into bankruptcy administration but could not reach a deal.
BHS would be very, very difficult to turn around. The chain was long ago overtaken by more fashionable fast-fashion discount brands like H&M and Forever 21. It has suffered from years of under-investment, after former owners Sir Philip Green and Dominic Chappell extracted more than £400 million in dividends and salary payments for themselves prior to its collapse. The BHS pension fund has a deficit of £571 million.
One thing it does have, which Ashley might be interested in, is excellent high street store locations. Those could be rented or sold or used by Ashley’s other business, Sports Direct.