Spotlight On... Harold Tillman; Retail entrepreneur

Thursday 19 April 2012 22:34

Who's this dapper chap?

The always impeccably dressed Harold Tillman, veteran fashion tycoon and the son of a tailor, who was being renamed "Aquascumbag" by unions yesterday.

Why? Has he been doing something nasty while snorkelling?

No, it's his Aquascutum business that's under water (groan). Administrators were called in this week and yesterday they shut down its factory in Corby, making all 115 workers redundant. And that just a couple of days after he sold Jaeger.

Ouch. So the unions aren't taking it well?

To say the least. The GMB points out that Mr Tillman, chairman of the British Fashion Council, withdrew Aquascutum two months ago from the Ethical Trading Initiative, which works to improve workers' lives. Little wonder.

How long had he owned Aquascutum for?

He took it on in 2009, hoping to turn around what was already a struggling business. But it proved too big a task. If we're honest, the poor souls in Corby were probably on borrowed time anyway.

And Jaeger?

He bought that in 2002, putting Debenhams' Belinda Earl in charge. Although he sold it this week for nearly £20m to veteran dealmaker Jon Moulton, he's not thought to have made much of a profit. All told, it's been a grim week for Harold.

Is it his first slip?

Unfortunately not. His Honorbilt fashion business ended up in receivership, with the DTI subsequently rapping his knuckles in the late 1980s. But he's had successes too. He opened Britain's first cocktail bar, Rumours, in London's Covent Garden, employed a young Paul Smith at his Lincroft tailoring business, where he made his first million, and, back in the 1960s, was one of the first to "get" celebrity endorsement – persuading George Best to license his name to a clothing range.

His last business, then?

He nearly retired before the Jaeger deal came along, so this could be the time to hang up those elegant shoes.

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