Conran invests pounds 1m in deal to save Fitch from the receivers

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The Independent Online
FITCH, the design company, is to be rescued from the jaws of receivership by Sir Terence Conran, the design guru and founder of Habitat, and Jean-Francois Bentz, both long-time associates of the chairman, Rodney Fitch.

Sir Terence said: 'I hope it is an old pals' act. Rodney worked for me at one time, and we have competed for many years. It's better to do business with friends than with people you don't know.'

Mr Bentz, who is to become Fitch's European chief executive, used to run Fitch's Paris office.

Sir Terence intends to take a 25 per cent stake by investing just over pounds 1m in Fitch as part of a complicated restructuring. Mr Bentz and Bernard Roux, the former president of Roux Seguela Cayzac et Goudard, the French advertising agency where Mr Bentz was head of design, will invest pounds 1.5m to take a 35 per cent stake.

Sir Terence and Brand Trust, Mr Bentz's and Mr Roux's company, will pay 11.7p for each of their shares, little more than a quarter of the 41p at which market dealings were suspended in July.

Fitch will raise a further pounds 625,000 by selling its Fitch Benoy architectural business to Graham Cartledge, the firm's managing director. Fitch Benoy has just paid its parent dividends and a management charge totalling pounds 786,000.

Staff earning more than pounds 13,000 will take a 7.6 per cent pay cut. A slightly larger percentage cut will leave Mr Fitch with pounds 201,000 a year.

Fitch was plunged into crisis by its move to expensive premises in Kings Cross. It has been unable to let its old offices in Soho.

The proposal enables Fitch to rid itself of the Soho leases at a cost of pounds 916,666, pounds 500,000 of it in cash. Fitch's landlords, Britannia Life and Mercantile & General Reinsurance, have agreed to take the rest of the consideration in shares.

National Westminster Bank has agreed to convert the pounds 6m debt on the Kings Cross property into a 10-year term loan.

Fitch's convertible preference shares will be turned into ordinary shares at an enhanced rate. Mr Fitch will be left with a 3.5 per cent stake. Fitch's executive directors will get new share options.

Fitch reported a pre-tax loss of pounds 1.8m (pounds 675,000) yesterday.

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