The owner of Football Pools is planning to buy a stake in Clarks, the 195-year-old shoe retailer that was forced to reduce its workforce in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
Sky News found that OpCapita, which flirted with controversy over ownership of Comet, the electrical retailer, is among a small number of parties vying to provide Clarks with new funds.
Sources said Sycamore Partners, a U.S.-based purchasing company that specializes in retail and consumer investment, was also talking about becoming a shareholder in Somerset-based businesses.
Sycamore came close to taking control of Victoria’s Secret, the lingerie brand owned by L Brands, but canceled the deal when the pandemic occurred.
They say that at least one other party is talking to Clarks about a deal.
Sky News revealed in May that the shoe chain was discussing a sale of shares that would dilute the control of its family members in the company.
Between £ 100 and £ 150 million is likely to be injected into the business as part of any deal.
In May, Clarks’ new chief executive, Giorgio Presca, presented a strategy – called “Made to Last” – that aims to direct it into the third century of operation.
His plans involve 900 job losses, with 200 new jobs being created.
Sources said on Friday that Presca had recruited Suzanne McKenna, former head of lingerie brand Triumph, as managing director of the company’s own-brand Clarks unit.
A Clarks spokesman confirmed that McKenna would join the company in August.
“As part of our transformation strategy announced in May, we revealed that the Clarks brand portfolio was organized into three separate business units, each representing a unique consumer segment. Clarks Originals; Clarks; Clarks Collection and Clarks Cloudsteppers” , he said. .
“These three new global business units have everything from product proposition, design, innovation, price, performance and marketing.”
A triumvirate of accounting firms is working on restructuring Clarks, who is trying to resist the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on High Street.
The chain’s family shareholders hired KPMG to advise them, while Deloitte was hired by the company’s management team.
PricewaterhouseCoopers had been hired by a union of creditors in the shoe chain when assessing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on its prospects.
The series of commitments comes after a difficult period for Clarks, which was founded in 1825 and has become synonymous with generations of parents buying their children’s first pair of shoes.
It remains the property of the descendants of Cyrus and James Clark, who founded the business in Somerset almost 200 years ago.
Clarks negotiates at about 345 stores in the UK, employing thousands of people, but has denied that it is exploring a Voluntary Company Agreement, a widely used insolvency mechanism that – if approved by creditors – would pave the way for a radical restructuring.
The company provided thousands of employees at its store under the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme.
In the last year for which figures are available, Clarks reported a post-tax loss of more than £ 80 million.
A Clarks spokesman declined to comment on negotiations with private equity firms, while OpCapita and Sycamore also declined to comment.