Game rescued by OpCapita deal

Kasmira Jefford
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CRISIS-HIT retailer Game, which went into administration last week, was yesterday rescued by investment firm OpCapita, in a deal which will safeguard nearly 3,200 jobs.

The turnaround specialist, which earlier this year acquired British electrical chain Comet from Kesa, has bought Game’s UK assets including all 333 remaining stores, administrators PwC said in a statement yesterday.

Former Halfords chief executive David Hamid, now an operating partner at the firm, has been appointed as chairman of Game to oversee the restructuring of the business.

OpCapita, which set up a vehicle called Baker to do the deal, said it has “no plans for any further store closures” and will also seek to re-employ a small number of staff who previously worked at the retailer’s head office who were made redundant last week.

Henry Jackson, the former Deutsche Bank rainmaker and founder of OpCapita said: “We strongly believe there is a place on the high street for a video gaming specialist and Game is the leading brand in a £2.8bn market in the UK. We have assembled a strong team of experienced industry operators to implement the programme of operational change that is needed. There is a huge amount to do but we look forward to the challenge of restoring GAME’s fortunes.”

The company is also lining up a new chief executive after Ian Shepherd stepped down last week after two years at the business. It is still unclear whether OpCapita plans to repay creditors as part of the deal including suppliers, who are owed £40m.

The company also owed around £85 to its six lenders led by RBS, who had also put in an offer to buy the company in a debt-for-equity- swap.

The video games retailer became the latest high-street casualty after costs from its vast UK store portfolio together an ambitious overseas expansion program left the company unable to pay its £21m rent bill. PwC closed 277 of Game’s badly performing stores on Tuesday last week, leaving more than 2,000 staff without jobs.

HENRY Jackson, founder of OpCapita, is no stranger to the UK high street.

His company bought kettles-to-computers group Comet last year for a nominal £2, and work is well underway to return the company to profit while avoiding significant store closures.

OpCapita picked DIY chain MFI as its maiden takeover, snapping it up for £1 in 2006 before shaking up its distribution and selling the firm on for a small profit just two years later.

OpCapita does not manage funds, but rather invests cash directly, relying on its partners’ knowledge of the retail sectors to push firms back to profitability.

Jackson, a New York native, changed the name of the company from Merchant Equity Partners a little over a year ago, keen to avoid comparisons with more ruthless private equity groups.

Before he set up what is now OpCapita, Jackson was head of Deutsche Bank’s European consumer and retail group.

The Wharton graduate started his career at Credit Suisse First Boston, and made the jump across the pond after he was head-hunted by DLJ.

David Hamid, who was yesterday named Game’s new chairman, has long been a key member of OpCapita, alongside fellow operating partners John von Spreckelsen and Stephen Alexander.

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