Comet staff demand inquiry into collapse

STAFF at stricken electricals chain Comet are calling for ministers to investigate the retailer’s collapse and its former private equity owners OpCapita.

Angry workers at the group have launched an online petition urging Parliament to look into the way OpCapita ran Comet, which collapsed into administration earlier this month.

More than 1,100 people have already signed the e-petition, which wants OpCapita and its boss Henry Jackson to be questioned over money invested in the firm.

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Comet’s administration comes just months after it was taken over by the investment firm, which bought the chain for a nominal £2 in February.

OpCapita said it invested £35m in Comet after buying the group, while it also received £50m from former Comet parent Kesa – now know as Darty – as part of the original sale.

According to OpCapita, the cash was used to provide capital to keep the business going and the buyout group had planned to revive sales by boosting online business and returning Comet to its roots of value for money deals.

But staff at Comet are asking ministers to look into how this money was invested in the retailer. The petition said: “The promise was made that OpCapita would turn our fortunes around.

“Yet all that’s happened is that we’ve been stripped down piece by piece until the company wasn’t self-sustainable any more.”

It added: “The staff of Comet deserve to know everything regarding its downfall as we are currently working under the shadow of redundancy on a day to day basis.”

OpCapita was not immediately available for comment.

While questions are mounting over the reasons for Comet’s troubles so soon after being taken over, administrators have said Comet was a victim of tough trading conditions in the consumer electronics market and a slump in wider high street spending. It is also thought that OpCapita and recently-appointed chairman John Clare - the former boss of rival Dixons - had been unable to secure the trade credit insurance needed to safeguard suppliers. OpCapita is a specialist in buying and turning around troubled firms – it bought video games retailer Game Group out of administration in April.It is understood that OpCapita structures its investments in such firms so that it is charged interest on its funding and is the lead creditor should the firm collapse.