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New Debenhams owners line up European turnaround veteran | Business News

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‎The new owners of Debenhams are close to parachuting in one of Europe’s most experienced turnaround executives just hours after taking control of the department store chain.

Sky News has learnt that Stefaan Vansteenkiste, a managing director at the professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal, is being lined up as chief restructuring officer of Debenhams‎.

The appointment of A&M‎ and Mr Vansteenkiste are expected to be announced by the end of the week, although one insider cautioned that an agreement had yet to be formally confirmed between the firm and the chain’s new owners.

The talks underline the determination of Debenhams’ new owners – a group of banks and largely American hedge funds – to press ahead with a root-and-branch overhaul of the heavily indebted business.

A Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA)‎ involving the closure of dozens of stores and loss of thousands of jobs is expected to be launched in the coming weeks.

A financial restructuring that will convert around £100m of Debenhams’ debt to new equity is also part of the new owners’ plans.

Mr Vansteenkiste is a long-serving restructuring advisor across industries including aviation, leisure‎ and retail.

He was recently the interim chief executive of Intertoys, a Benelux-based toy retailer that trades from 500 stores, and held the same role at Vion, a multinational livestock slaughtering company.

‎It was unclear on Wednesday how long Mr Vansteenkiste, who is regarded as an expert in operational restructuring, would work at Debenhams.

The company’s new shareholders, who include Barclays and the US hedge fund Silver Point, have indicated that they do not regard themselves as long-term owners of the company.

‎Lazard, the investment bank which advised Debenhams’ board in the period before it called in administrators, is expected to advise on the sale.

The department store chain’s quickfire collapse sparked a furious riposte from Mike Ashley, the boss of its biggest shareholder, Sports Direct International‎.

Mr Ashley described the administration of Debenhams as “a national scandal” and called for it to be reversed.

Sports Direct had submitted a blizzard of alternative offers that it says would have enabled Debenhams to avoid its brief in‎solvency.

A spokesman for Debenhams declined to comment, while FTI Consulting, the administrator, said questions about new executive appointments were a matter for the board.

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