Belfast Telegraph

Dragon could breathe new life into failed leisure business

By Jamie Grierson

Dragons' Den star Peter Jones has tabled a bid for ailing outdoor clothing retailer Blacks Leisure, a spokesman for the entrepreneur said.

Multi-millionaire Mr Jones, who appears on a panel of wealthy investors on the popular BBC reality show, is one of four potential buyers, who are understood to also include Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley's Sports Direct and sportswear firm JD Sports.

The outdoor clothing group, which owns 98 Blacks outlets and 208 Millets stores, including four in Northern Ireland, is likely to be sold under a pre-pack administration deal after it said it did not expect an offer for the group's shares, but for its trade, assets and brands. The loss-making company, which employs 3,600 staff in outlets and at its head office and distribution centre in Northamptonshire, put itself up for sale after failing to secure extra funding to turn around the business.

Mr Jones, the longest serving dragon on the BBC show, is chairman and chief executive of Phones International Group, the telecommunications business he founded in 1998.

CBE holder Mr Jones, who according to the Sunday Times Rich List is worth around £220m, has a business portfolio spanning mobile phones, television, media, leisure and property.

Professional services firm KPMG is running the sale of Blacks Leisure and is also expected to oversee the administration.

The deadline for bids was yesterday.

A pre-pack deal - an insolvency procedure which sees a company being sold immediately after it has entered administration - would see most of its £36m of debt wiped out and its worst-performing stores closed.

The process is viewed as controversial because creditors do not have the opportunity to vote against the proposed asset sale - although the swift sale of the assets is necessary to enable the best price to be achieved.

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