Jack Wills cancels plans to float on the London Stock Exchange


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Jack Wills, the preppy British fashion brand, became the latest retailer to pull plans for a stock market flotation as it announced that its founder had returned to the helm.

Wendy Becker, who was brought in to prepare the chain for the listing, was shown the door after failing to bring the company into shape to appeal to future investors. Instead, Peter Williams, who stepped down as chief executive two years ago, is back in charge. He remains Jack Wills’ majority shareholder.

The retailer was founded by Williams and his friend Robert Shaw in the Devon resort of Salcombe in 1999 and it now has 59 shops, but they have struggled in recent years. Its latest results from February 2014 showed that sales grew slightly from £112m to £118m, but losses widened from £180,000 to £6.7m.

Ms Becker joined three years ago after successful stints at Vodafone and TalkTalk. However, despite improving sales in its menswear division, the company suffered elsewhere.

It said the board and shareholders had decided not to pursue an IPO for the time being after “a detailed review of Jack Wills’ growth opportunities”, and that Ms Becker had decided to step down as a result. Mr Williams said: “I am extremely excited about resuming my role as Jack Wills’ CEO after a two-year break. I would like to thank Wendy for her significant contribution to the business.”

Ms Becker, who remains a shareholder, said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Jack Wills and, as a member of the board, fully agree with the decision not to press ahead with an IPO at this moment.”

The firm’s move follows similar decisions by New Look and House of Fraser, which were both considering IPOs but opted to sell to private equity instead. Fat Face also pulled an IPO, preferring to focus on growing the business and expanding into the US.