Tuesday, 17 May 2016

The curious case of the BHS dealmaker, the Nottingham-based sock maker and the Swiss retailer

Just when you thought it couldn't get any more bizarre, little old Betaville can add another intriguing twist to the BHS saga.

It turns out that Paul Sutton - the dealmaker who reportedly worked on the original sale of BHS to Dominic Chappell's Retail Acquisitions - has been cooking up another multi-million pound takeover deal. In fact, Olly Shah of The Sunday Times already alluded to this potential deal in one of his past scoops on BHS.

But little old Betaville can reveal that a mystery consortium linked to Sutton has been talking to Burt Brothers, a British family-owned company that designs and makes socks, about purchasing a Switzerland-based retailer called Charles Vogeler.

Apparently, a special purpose vehicle has already been set up and financing arranged with a view to making an offer for Charles Vogeler. A senior executive from Burt Brothers had been lined up to run the SPV, according to one of my sources.

To be honest, I don't know much about Charles Vogeler but a quick look at its website tells me it was founded in 1955 by a Swiss couple, Charles and Agnes Vogeler, and has since expanded across Europe.

Does this deal involving a Midlands-based clothing manufacturer and a Swiss retailer sound rather peculiar? I think many readers would say: most definitely!

However, I'm told there are a tremendous amount of back-end "synergies" to be had from combining the companies - and there would have been even greater synergies of combining with BHS.

A combination with BHS, though, seems unlikely now given what's happened to the company in the last few weeks.

And the reality is that this consortium probably has some way to go to get a deal over the line for Charles Vogeler...

Charles Vogeler declined to comment while Burt Brothers didn't respond to requests for comment.

Paul Sutton told little old Betaville: "I'm not involved".

However, people familiar with the dealmaker admitted a group connected to Mr Sutton, including Retail Acquisitions, had "glanced" at the Swiss retailer eighteen months ago.

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