Brothers behind Oasis buy Kookai chain

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The Independent Online

The Bennett brothers, the duo behind the Oasis fashion chain, have stepped in to safeguard the future of Kookai in the UK, sealing a deal to buy the French fashion chain from the administrators.

Maurice and Michael Bennett, who had earlier built up the Warehouse chain, have purchased Kookai from Deloitte, which was appointed to handle the sale of the business at the start of the month.

Kookai will join Long Tall Sally, the high street chain that caters for tall women, in the Bennett brothers' new retail portfolio. The duo cut their ties with Oasis after selling out to Iceland's Baugur three years ago.

Kookai, which trades from 25 UK stores and 30 concessions, was the first high street victim of 2006, collapsing into administration on 3 January. It had been run by the AIM-listed Forminster under a franchise agreement with its French parent, Groupe Vivarte.

Kookai's troubles dated back to the autumn when Groupe Vivarte warned Forminster, which ran the business through its Adjustbetter subsidiary, that it did not wish it to renew the brand licensing agreement, leaving a question mark hanging over the brand's UK future during the crucial Christmas trading period.

The Bennett brothers cut their retailing teeth at the camera shop chain set up by their father. Maurice Bennett left school at 14 to work for the family company, Bennett cameras, later building the company into Europe's biggest camera retailer before selling out to Dixons in the early 1960s. The pair also used to own the womenswear chains Coast and Phase Eight.

Details of the sale could be announced as early as today. The news will be a fillip to the retail sector, which endured a slew of company failures in the run up to Christmas.

No one from Deloitte was available to comment and the Bennett brothers could not be reached.