Belfast Telegraph

I'm ready to do deal for Harland & Wolff says US investor Flacks

Harland & Wolff shipyard workers protest at the gates
Harland & Wolff shipyard workers protest at the gates
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

The boss of a global company has said he wants to take over Harland & Wolff and secure the jobs of its 130-strong workforce, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Michael Flacks of investment firm Flacks Group said he would be taking over the stricken business to guarantee its future growth.

Administrators were to be appointed to the business today, but it is understood that is now likely to be delayed until Monday.

Yesterday, despite calls from trade unions for the company to be renationalised, a Government spokesman said Harland & Wolff's (H&W) predicament is "ultimately a commercial issue".

Mr Flacks, whose business is based in Miami, said the shipyard carried out similar work to one of his existing companies, Pleuger Industries, which has operations in Germany.

"We do a lot of off-shore equipment work for Pleuger Industries in Hambrug but if we acquired Harland & Wolff, we could move some of our off-shore work to Belfast," he said.

Mr Flacks, who is from Manchester, said he was ready and waiting to do the deal and said any "issues" were on the Northern Ireland side.

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He would not divulge what any issues were, or what price he would be prepared to pay, but said the pension deficit at H&W would not be a deal-breaker.

"We are looking to strike a deal to acquire the business. We're talking with them with a view to completely take the company over with no job losses. We're looking to do this imminently," he continued.

Mr Flacks said he has been in talks with H&W representatives in Miami. The company refused to comment.

Flacks Group specialises in taking over struggling businesses, with Mr Flacks previously linked to a £20m bid to take over failing retailer Laura Ashley.

But he said he did not regard a bid for H&W in the same light.

"This is a strategic acquisition for our business in Germany," he said. "It's a whole different thing because we need this for one of our portfolio."

And asked if he would wish to acquire the iconic Samson and Goliath cranes belonging to the shipyard, Mr Flacks said: "We want it as it is and we'd be taking everything."

He said he did not plan to wait until administrators are appointed before taking ownership.

According to its website, Pleuger Industries operates in industries including water, oil and gas, energy, chemical, marine and general industrial markets.

Seven years ago Mr Flacks was part of a consortium which bought struggling Irish fashion chain A-Wear. But he left within a year and the chain was sold again, only to collapse.

According to reports, Mr Flacks also indicated in 2012 that he would buy over the Accrington Arndale shopping centre, north of Manchester. A report on Mr Flacks' bid for Laura Ashley in The Times cited filings in Florida that showed Mr Flacks has been a director of five companies that were dissolved for failing to file annual returns.

Belfast Telegraph