Moss Bros, the beleaguered formalwear retailer, was last night bracing itself for another period of takeover speculation, after the colourful rag trade entrepreneur Harold Tillman expressed an interest in the business.
Mr Tillman has held discussions with Moss Bros management and shareholders about the possibility of merging the company with his Baird Menswear Brands. Having received short shrift, he may now make a bid.
Keith Hamill, Moss Bros's chairman, confirmed Mr Tillman had contacted him to discuss the possible synergies to be gained from a merger. Mr Hamill said he had referred the entrepreneur to the company's financial advisers, NM Rothschild. "I have written to him giving him Rothschilds' address, asking that, if he wants to make a bid, he set out the terms of his offer and his sources of finance," he said.
It is the second approach from a clothing entrepreneur that Moss Bros has faced since the start of the year. In April, Shami Ahmed, the founder of Joe Bloggs jeans, backed out of a bid for the retailer after its board rejected three offers and refused him access to its books.
Moss Bros, which includes Cecil Gee and Savoy Taylors Guild among its portfolio of stores, has slumped into the red as professionals abandoned suits in favour of "dress down" casuals, and after failing to find a successful casualwear format of its own.
Mr Hamill said: "The concern is that this new expression of interest could be a bit of a distraction for us, given the tough challenges we are trying to meet. That said, we are getting quite practised at dealing with this sort of thing."
Baird Menswear Brands makes Jasper Conran and Pierre Cardin suits and a merger would give it access to Moss Bros's 155 UK stores.
Mr Tillman – who has twice fought off Department of Trade and Industry attempts to disqualify him as a director – acquired the company 18 months ago from William Baird, which was thrown into financial chaos when Marks & Spencer ended a 30-year-old supply agreement.