Struggling retailer BHS has been sold by tycoon Sir Philip Green to a consortium of investors for what is understood to be a nominal sum.
Sir Philip announced the deal today, nearly 15 years after buying the chain.
BHS, which has 171 stores and employs 11,000 staff, is being acquired by Retail Acquisitions. The value of the deal has not been disclosed.
The consortium is led by stockbroker Keith Smith, formerly of City firm Nabarro Wells, and also includes entrepreneur and former racing driver Dominic Chappell, as well as Spanish turnaround and oil distribution firm Olivia Petroleum.
Mr Smith said it was to appoint a BHS chairman with “significant retail experience”. It was reported that former Thomas Cook boss Harriet Green had been approached.
Sir Philip said: “I am pleased that we have found a buyer in Retail Acquisitions Ltd who wants to develop the BHS brand.”
“I am confident that Retail Acquisitions Limited have a platform to grow the business and return it to profitability.
“Most of the senior management have been with BHS for a long time and know the business very well - I am confident that they will work seamlessly with the new owners to achieve the very best for BHS.”
Mr Smith said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to breathe new life into this iconic British high street brand.
“We are convinced that with strategic and focussed support we will return BHS to profitability, and safeguard the workforce.”
Latest financial results showed BHS slipped to a £21 million loss for the year to August 30 from £19.3 million the year before, despite a 3.6% rise in underlying sales, as margins slipped by 1%.
Speculation has surrounded the future of the chain for months and it was reported earlier this year that it had been put up for sale.
The business is not being offloaded with a so-called “dowry” to entice the buyer to take it on but will be debt free.
Retail Acquisitions was set up with the aim of funding such purchases by a group of turnaround experts, entrepreneurs and City figures led by chairman Mr Smith, a business contact of Sir Philip.
He has previously been associated with the flotation of companies on London’s junior AIM market.
Plans for the chain include ramping up spending after what is seen as underinvestment in the stores as well as the roll-out of a food offer launched last year at a limited number of outlets. BHS Food currently trades in three stores
The consortium also sees more opportunities for international expansion as well as in-store concessions..
These currently include fellow members of Sir Philip’s Arcadia stable such as Topshop and Dorothy Perkins.
The new owners will look at adding concessions from non-fashion firms outside Arcadia possibly including homeware and electrical goods retailers.
The first British Home Stores opened its doors in Brixton in 1928. Sir Philip bought the chain for £200 million in May 2000.
Today, apart from its UK stores, it has 88 international franchise sites operating in markets such as Malaysia, Russia and the UAE.
Retail Acquisitions is described as “a company established in England in order to make acquisitions in the UK retail space”.