Daughter of Matalan founder saves Nicole Fahri brand

Maxine Hargreaves-Adams bought the retailer for an undisclosed sum

James Thompson@Thompj
Tuesday 23 July 2013 03:37

The failed luxury brand Nicole Farhi has been rescued out of administration by the daughter of John Hargreaves, the founder and owner of Matalan.

The retailer, which was founded in 1982 by French Connection boss Stephen Marks and his former wife Nicole Farhi, appointed Zolfo Cooper as administrator this month after being hit by a trading and cashflow crisis.

Maxine Hargreaves-Adams described Nicole Farhi as “an iconic and much-loved British brand” but the knock-down price paid for the business was not disclosed.

This beefs up the growing fashion portfolio of the entrepreneur, as she bought the retailer Fenn Wright Manson out of administration last year. Ms Hargreaves-Adams also invested in Damsel in a Dress last month.

She is wealthy in her own right and spent 15 years at Matalan, including in the role of fashion director, before she forged her own career buying and building brands. Well-known in high society, Ms Hargreaves-Adams has been a guest at Sir Elton John’s balls, and is a close friend of Prince Andrew.

Her younger brothers are also steeped in the rag trade. While eyebrows were raised this month when Jason Hargreaves replaced Darren Blackhurst as chief executive of Matalan, he started working at the fashion retailer at the age of eight, and has been a senior figure over recent years.

Another sibling, Jamey, invested in the luxury label Julien Macdonald in 2007. He resigned from the brand as a director iin 2011 but at that time remained an investor.

John Hargreaves also owns the Wolsey clothing business.

Nicole Farhi has endured a turbulent three years. French Connection sold the brand to the US private equity firm OpenGate for £5m in 2010.

The investment firm then sold its stake to Kelso Place Asset Management in January 2012.

Retail vision: Hargreaves and Matalan

It was on a trip to a Walmart store in the US that John Hargreaves saw the future of retail: low-cost stores in out-of-town parks. The son of a Liverpool docker left school at 14 and has never looked back after establishing Matalan from a store in Preston in 1985.

He made his fortune by floating Matalan on the stock market in 1998 and then took it private in 2006 in a deal worth £827m, supported by £410m of debt. The tycoon, who commutes from his home in Monaco to Matalan’s office in Skelmersdale, north-west England, tried unsuccessfully to sell the retailer for £1.5bn four years ago. Mr Hargreaves stepped down as chairman of Matalan in 2007 but, with his son, Jason, as chief executive, he is likely to be as closely involved as ever.

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