Troubled Blacks falls into the red as buyers contemplate salvage

Stricken retailer Blacks Leisure said it will go into administration but still hopes most of the business will be salvaged by buyers.

The company, which runs 98 Blacks outlets and 208 Millets stores and employs some 3,600 staff, admitted it failed to find an outright buyer after putting itself up for sale following dire trading.

But it has received offers for the trade, assets and brands of the group and expects to announce the appointment of administrators in coming days to allow the sale as part of a pre-pack deal.

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It also said its shares will be suspended because the deal will attribute no value to its stock.

Dragons’ Den star Peter Jones, Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct and sportswear firm JD Sports are among the likely bidders.

It is hoped that the deal will help it save many of the jobs by allowing buyers to cherry-pick its best assets, including the profitable stores. However, some job losses are widely expected, particularly at its head office and warehouse in Northampton, which costs the company around £26 million a year, including rent and wages.

The company will trade as normal as the details of the deal are thrashed out over coming days.

A pre-pack deal – an insolvency procedure which sees a company being sold immediately after it has entered administration – would see most of its £36 million 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.

There had been concerns over Blacks’ future after its biggest shareholder, Sports Direct, walked away from initial buy-out talks, sparking fears of a lack of interest.

But Sports Direct, which owns 22.5 per cent of Blacks Leisure, is now a forerunner to buy the group out of administration.