Liberty owner teams up with Jack Wills founder to buyout fashion chain

Jessica Morris
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Jack Wills, founded in 1999, is aimed at university students (Source: Jack Wills)

The owner of the Liberty department store in London has joined forces with the founder of Jack Wills as part of a multi-million pound buyout of the clothing empire.

The fashion chain's joint shareholders are now the private equity firm which owns Liberty, BlueGem Capital Partners, alongside Jack Wills' founder and chief executive, Peter Williams.

Read more: Liberty sells flagship store

Derek Lovelock, who is the executive chairman of retailer Mamas and Papas, has also joined Jack Wills as non-executive chairman. He replaces Mervyn Davies, a former chief executive of Standard Chartered and government minister.

Williams, who co-founded the brand 17 years ago in the upmarket Devon seaside town of Salcombe, is staying on as chief executive. He returned to the helm at Jack Wills last summer, two years after stepping down, to oversee a turnaround.

The firm had been suffering due to problems with the oursourcing of its distribution centre prior to Williams' appointment in August 2015. Since then, the preppy brand has fared somewhat better.

While like-for-like sales fell in the first half of the financial year ended 31 January, they increased by 3.9 per cent in the second half. Turnover rose 4.1 per cent to £137.4m and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation hit £5.1m.

Read more: Suitors circling for Liberty after building sold for £41m

But Jack Wills still posted a £13.8m operating loss due to exceptional items related to problems at the distribution centre.

Williams said: "The numbers clearly show that momentum has returned and significant results are being delivered. Importantly, this improvement in trading has continued into the first half of the current year."

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