Green bidding to match Hinchliffe on high street

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The Independent Online
Philip Green, the former chairman of the What Everyone Wants retail group, added another high street chain to his growing high street interests yesterday when he acquired the Mark One women's fashion shops.

Mr Green paid more than pounds 7m cash for the 95 stores which collapsed into administration 10 days ago with debts of pounds 17m. Mark One recorded losses of almost pounds 2m on sales of pounds 95m last year.

With Olympus Sports, the Xceptions group of discount shops and the 13 Owen Owen department stores, Mr Green presides over a group of almost 400 shops with sales of around pounds 500m. He is challenging Stephen Hinchliffe, the Sheffield entrepreneur, as the saviour of all things collapsing on the high street.

Commenting on his latest purchase Mr Green said: "It's an interesting group put together in under three years. They are all valuable businesses in their own right. It's not a property play. We are going to run them for a profit.

"If you look at the businesses I've got - department stores are back in vogue, sportswear is booming and Mark One is in value for money fashion which can do very well."

He added that he had no plans to take his company public: "No thanks."

For Mark One, Mr Green beat off competition from Shami Ahmed of the Joe Bloggs jeans company who had also offered pounds 7m for the company. Mr Green said there would be rationalisation which would include some head office job losses. However, he does not plans to put his purchases under one company to achieve economies of scale. They will all be run as seperate businesses.

Analysts remain mystified about his intentions. John Richards, at NatWest Securities said: "I'm not sure what he's up to. I'm not sure he has a gameplan or if he just feels Mr Hinchliffe needs competition."

Mr Green, who left the What Everyone Wants group Amber Day in 1992, has built his retail group in less than three years. He acquired Xceptions in May 1993 and the 13 Owen Owen department stores in 1994. Last November he combined with Tom Hunter of Sports Division to pay pounds 25m for Olympus Sports. That deal gave him 128 high street branches, 22 out-of-town stores and 55 in-store concessions. He has also bought and later sold the One UP chain of variety stores and a stake in Owen & Robinson.

Mark One's creditors are expected to receive around 50p in the pound from the administrators. Neville Kahn of joint administrators Coopers & Lybrand said: "On Friday we went to court and were granted an order to sell the business and assets to the best cash offer." He said he believed the deal would save over 2,000 jobs.

Mr Green said he was pleased to have captured Mark One after a long battle with Mr Ahmed of Joe Bloggs. "I feel like I've gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson," he said.