Aquascutum goes into administration

 

Aquascutum, the 160-year-old British clothing retailer which has dressed Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother, collapsed into administration today, jeopardising 250 jobs.

The business was bought by Jaeger's owner Harold Tillman and its chief executive Belinda Earl in 2009 but it continued to make "significant losses" despite their efforts to turn it around, according to administrators at FRP Advisory.

Joint administrator Geoff Rowley said he hoped there were parties interested in holding discussions over purchasing the business.

The administration move comes after Mr Tillman sold a majority stake yesterday in Jaeger, whose operations were tied in with those of Aquascutum.

Aquascutum operates three high street stores - at Westfield White City, Canary Wharf and Windsor - and has a further 16 concessions, including at Harrods. It runs its manufacturing base from a factory in Corby, Northamptonshire.

Mr Rowley said: "We are conscious of the value of the Aquascutum brand and its long-standing heritage and because of this are keen to enter into early discussions with interested parties open to purchasing the business as soon as possible."

Aquascutum also runs seven outlet stores and 11 concessions overseas.

The group's other concessions in the UK can be found in stores run by Austin Reed, Selfridges, House of Fraser, John Lewis and at Hoopers in Tunbridge Wells.

Aquascutum was founded in 1851 by tailor John Emary. It was named after the Latin for water shield after it developed the first waterproof wool.

In its early days it was best known for a style of trenchcoat worn during the First World War.

The business's clothes have been worn by Lady Thatcher, Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant.

Mr Tillman and Ms Earl bought Aquascutum in 2009 from Japanese trading house Renown following a year in which it made losses of around £24 million.

Over the last three years, shareholders invested around £30 million in a turnaround plan.

A statement from Aquascutum said today: "The senior management team have worked tirelessly to develop and build the Aquascutum brand.

"The challenging conditions in the UK, however, have unfortunately meant that the team have been unable to successfully turn the business around which has ultimately resulted in its administration.

"The board hopes that under FRP Advisory, the business will be disposed of successfully."

Ms Earl stepped down from her job as chief executive of Jaeger and Aquascutum last month with health problems.

Mr Tillman yesterday sold a 90% stake in Jaeger and all its secured debt to Better Capital, a private equity firm owned by British venture capitalist Jon Moulton, for £19.5 million.

It is understood the sale was to protect Jaeger from any fall-out from the collapse of Aquascutum.

Mr Tillman made his fortune in the rag trade, starting his career in the 1960s with wholesaler Lincroft Kilgour, where he later rose to managing director before floating it on the London Stock Exchange.

The south Londoner later added to his fortune by buying and selling UK Yves Saint Laurent distributor Marchpole.

PA

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