Frasers Group, led by Mike Ashley, has officially expressed its interest in acquiring the struggling department store chain Debenhams. Despite the auction for the company ending and Debenhams’ anticipated closure in March 2021, Frasers Group aims to rescue the business, along with its 12,000 employees and 124 stores located across the UK. In a stock exchange announcement, Frasers Group confirmed that it is currently in talks with the administrators of Debenhams’ UK operation for a potential rescue deal. While Frasers Group did not directly address rumors of a £200 million offer, it acknowledged the limited time available for negotiations and the complications arising from the administration of Arcadia Group, Debenhams’ largest concession holder.

Frasers Group already owns House of Fraser, a rival department store chain, as well as other retail brands such as Flannels, Jack Wills, and Sports Direct. The company has held an interest in acquiring Debenhams since it held a nearly 30% stake in the company when it was publicly listed. There is uncertainty regarding Frasers Group’s plans for Debenhams’ future operations, as the chain had previously devised a plan to allow potential buyers to retain 60 of its existing department stores.

Professor John Colley from Warwick Business School suggests that Mike Ashley may prioritize acquiring the most profitable aspects of Debenhams’ business, leveraging his expertise in negotiating efficient and cost-effective supply chains. While there are concerns that Debenhams may lose its appeal under Frasers Group’s ownership, Colley argues that it is a preferable outcome compared to widespread closures and the decline of town centers. The negotiations and potential transformation of Debenhams under new ownership will be closely monitored in the coming months to see how the situation unfolds.

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