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JD Sports in talks about Authentic bid for Topshop | Business News

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LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 07: Sir Philip Green during the TOPSHOP TOPMAN Las Vegas Exclusive Preview at the Fashion Show Mall on March 7, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)

The American owner of Barneys, the famous New York department store, is in talks with JD Sports Fashion about joining forces in a swoop on Topshop, the jewel in Sir Philip Green’s former retail empire.

Sky News has learnt that Authentic Brands Group has been holding early-stage discussions with JD Sports about the London-listed company running Topshop’s operations if its bid is successful.

The combination of Authentic, which also owns Forever 21, and JD Sports, one of the most adept players in British retailing, adds up to a powerful contender to buy Topshop from the administrators to Arcadia Group.

Final offers for Sir Philip’s former assets are due to be tabled in the coming days, with high street behemoths including Next expected to be among the bidders.

JD Sports, run by Peter Cowgill, did not make an offer of its own for any of Arcadia’s brands, but is said to have a good working relationship with Authentic and its chairman, Jamie Salter.

People close to the talks between Authentic and JD described them as preliminary and “far from concrete” but acknowledged that JD becoming operating partner for an Authentic-owned Topshop was a credible prospect.

News of their potential collaboration comes as administrators to Debenhams continue to wind down the department store chain, with stores including its Oxford Street flagship now earmarked for permanent closure.

The third English lockdown has wreaked further havoc on the retail sector, with Paperchase filing a notice of intention to appoint administrators last week.

Deloitte, which is handling Arcadia’s insolvency, is trying to secure deals for as many of the group’s assets as possible in the coming weeks.

Evans, the womenswear brand, has already been sold to City Chic, an Australian group, with a number of other parties circling labels such as Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge.

Sky News revealed last month that Next and Davidson Kempner Capital Management were plotting a combined offer for the whole of Arcadia, with many analysts now regarding their bid as the frontrunner.

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group and Boohoo Group, the online fashion retailer, may also table final offers.

Up to 13,000 jobs are at risk from Arcadia’s collapse, with brands including Evans, Wallis and Outfit seen as less likely to attract bidders.

It is the demise of Sir Philip’s high street status that is likely to emerge as the most enduring symbol of the pandemic’s impact on Britain’s economy.

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Sir Philip Green bought Arcadia in 2002 for £850m

Sir Philip bought the high street group in 2002 for £850m, and just three years later paid what remains one of the largest-ever dividends – £1.2bn – to Arcadia’s registered owner, his wife Lady Christina.

For years, he was feted as a high street colossus, advising David Cameron on public sector waste during his period as prime minister.

In 2012, he sold a 25% stake in TopShop’s immediate holding company to Leonard Green & Partners, a private equity firm, valuing the fashion chain at £2bn.

Sir Philip was later to buy it back for just $1.

His decision to sell the department store chain BHS in 2015 for £1 to Dominic Chappell, a former bankrupt who was recently jailed for tax evasion, set off a chain of events which cost Sir Philip his reputation and much of his fortune.

BHS collapsed just a year after that deal, sparking a bitter row about Sir Philip’s responsibilities towards its pensioners.

In early 2017, Sir Philip struck a deal with pensions watchdogs to pay more than £360m to the BHS scheme and which set the tone for negotiations over Arcadia’s retirement fund two years later.

Last year, the tycoon narrowly secured approval for a company voluntary arrangement at Arcadia, but was forced to pledge a package of assets worth more than £400m to the company’s pension scheme.

JD Sports declined to comment on Wednesday.

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Barclays weigh £3bn float of online retailer Very Group | Business News

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Sir David Barclay (l) and his twin brother Sir Frederick after receiving their knighthoods at Buckingham Palace in 2000

The proprietors of The Daily Telegraph have begun exploring plans for a £3bn-plus flotation of Very Group, their booming online retail operation.

Sky News has learnt that the Barclay family is at the early stages of examining whether to take Very to the public markets in order to capitalise on exploding investor interest in digitally led retailers.

Insiders said that the family had started evaluating such a move prior to the unexpected death this week of Sir David Barclay, who with his twin brother Sir Frederick had built one of Britain’s biggest private business empires.

A decision about an initial public offering (IPO) of Very Group is not thought to be imminent, but sources close to the family acknowledged that it was under more serious contemplation than at any previous point.

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The family had started evaluating the move before the unexpected death of Sir David Barclay (l), seen here with his twin brother, Sir Frederick

It was unclear on Friday evening whether Very’s board had formally appointed bankers to help advise on a potential listing plan, although one source said that UBS – which has advised the company in the past – was likely to be involved.

If the owners did decide to pursue a public listing, it would expose a Barclay-owned business to the glare of public equity markets for the first time, marking a significant departure for a family which has – despite the profile of the assets it owns – always sought to protect its privacy.

In addition to the Telegraph titles, the Barclays also own the logistics business Yodel.

Last year, the family sold London’s Ritz hotel following a bitter dispute between the twins over its valuation.

A legal battle involving allegations of corporate espionage may yet continue despite Sir David’s death.

Last year’s Sunday Times Rich List estimated that the brothers had amassed a combined fortune of about £7bn.

A flotation of Very Group would be a logical step for a business which, like many online retailers, has been among the big beneficiaries of the coronavirus pandemic.

While high street chains have invariably been struggling to stay afloat, Very reported this week what it described as a record-breaking Christmas and Black Friday trading performance.

The company is run by Henry Birch, a former boss of the casino operator Rank Group, and chaired by Aidan, one of Sir David’s sons.

In a trading update published this week, Mr Birch said the Christmas trading period had “started early at Very and our committed team worked tirelessly to deliver for our customers”.

“Because we sell everything our customers could possibly want except food, are online only and offer a range of payment options, we were perfectly placed to help a record number of people make the most of the festive period.”

The company said it had seen more than 500,000 new customers use the Very Group platform, with 139m website visits – a year-on-year rise of nearly 50%.

“Our record-breaking performance was supported by our new fulfilment centre, which processed 3.9m orders during peak; an incredible achievement for a facility that only launched in March this year, when the first national lockdown was announced,” Mr Birch added.

“While the economic picture remains unpredictable, we have strong momentum as we begin the year.”

Very Group last explored the possibility of bringing in external investors in 2017, when it held talks with a number of large private equity firms.

At the time, it sought a roughly-£3bn valuation for the business, which at the time was called Shop Direct, but ultimately decided not to pursue a sale.

A Very Group spokesman declined to comment on Friday.

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ITV picks firm to screen successors to chairman Bazalgette | Business News

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ITV picks firm to screen successors to chairman Bazalgette | Business News

ITV is kicking off a search for a new chairman as Sir Peter Bazalgette prepares to step down next year after almost a decade on the broadcaster’s board.

Sky News has learnt that ITV‘s nominations committee, led by the former Jupiter Fund Management boss Edward Bonham Carter, has appointed Spencer Stuart to oversee the search.

Sir Peter, who has chaired the commercial television group since 2016, is not expected to leave until his term expires in May 2022.

In total, he will have served for nine years on ITV’s board, having been a non-executive director for three years prior to replacing Archie Norman.

Sir Peter, a former chief creative officer at the TV production company Endemol, is a respected figure both at ITV and in the wider broadcasting industry.

A number of the company’s leading shareholders are said to be disappointed that he has effectively been “timed out” by the corporate governance code, which stipulates that chairs are no longer deemed independent after nine years in total on a listed company’s board.

His successor as chair will inherit a company that, like many others, is grappling with rapid changes convulsing the media landscape.

ITV’s stock price has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with the company’s chief executive, Dame Carolyn McCall, revealing last summer that advertising revenue had been hit by the sharpest fall in its history.

During the last 12 months, shares in ITV have fallen by nearly a quarter, giving the company a market value of £4.37bn.

ITV declined to comment on the search for a new chairman.

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COVID-19: Supreme Court backs small firms over business interruption insurance claims | Business News

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COVID-19: Supreme Court backs small firms over business interruption insurance claims | Business News

Small firms are cheering a Supreme Court ruling that appears set to force insurers to pay out on disputed coronavirus business interruption claims potentially worth £1.2bn.

Judges were asked to set the parameters for valid claims from various policies following a test case brought by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) with the support of eight insurance companies last summer.

The High Court judgment, handed down in September, was widely seen as supportive for the bulk of the estimated 370,000 companies said to be affected by the dispute.

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Sept: Small firms welcome insurance ruling

Hiscox Action Group has hailed the Supreme Court ruling as a “massive boost” for UK businesses.

A broad range of firms including pubs, cafes, wedding planners and beauty parlours argued they faced ruin when they were turned down by insurers for business interruption policy claims on losses caused by the first national COVID-19 lockdown.

Reasons for turning down payouts by insurers included that policies demanded there be local cases in any outbreak situation.

The legal process was fast-tracked to the highest court in England and Wales which said on Friday that it was to had “substantially allowed” the appeal brought by the FCA and an action group to clarify the position.

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