Administrators have in principle accepted an offer for the failed Life & Style retailer – but will not say whether its former chief Elaine McPherson is looking to take control of the business yet again.
As debenture holders, McPherson, her business partner Suresh Ruia and the Indian-based Bank of Baroda are all owed money following the collapse of the fashion and homewares chain, but the deal cannot go ahead without their agreement.
A report from administrators RSM Tenon said: “At present, an offer has been received by the administrators which has been accepted subject to contract and consent from the debenture holders.
“Contract negotiations are at an advanced stage and it is hoped that consent from all debenture holders will be forthcoming.”
McPherson has presided over three collapses of Life & Style in its various guises as the Ethel Austin fashion chain and the Au Naturale homewares stores – the most recent failure being this June.
Hundreds of jobs have been lost, and the USDAW union is reported to be extremely concerned that McPherson might be behind the purchase. It says the administrators must make sure that the buyer is able to “run the business effectively and show they can provide a long-term, sustainable future for its employees”.
The administrators’ report shows that McPherson secured a debenture in return for a loan of £600,000, and that Ruia – who runs the textile import company Beamfeature – was also granted a debenture to cover £6.5m lent as working capital. Bank of Baroda was granted the highest-ranking debenture for providing working capital of around £4.4m.
RSM Tenon says it has received 175 expressions of interests from parties interested in buying Life & Style or its stock.