Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sorry Is The Hardest Word

In the spirit of everyone in our industry saying sorry for something or another, you know global meltdown, greed, dodgy lending practices, that sort of thing, I was looking through some old posts written in 'the gold old days' to see what predictions I made that were total and utter... erm rubbish.

The one that hit me straight in the chops was my article on Arev the Icelandic private equity firm and how great they were. I made a joke about the fact that their private equity firm was called Kcaj and that Arev and Kcaj spelt backwards is 'Jack and Vera' the Coronation street stars. Emails abound on the fact that this was mere coincidence but having named another part of the firm Yrret it has to be confirmation. 'Terry' was Jack and Vera's wayward son in the soap.

Thing is that the situation that Icelandic firms find themselves in now is anything but funny. Our Corry loving friends have had a bad year, Hardy Amies, the UK Couture House, bought by the firm, collapsed in 2008 after Kcaj refused further funding. Kroll were appointed administrators but could not secure the sale of the company as a going concern causing the closure of all but the Saville Row head office. The lease on this building which is beautiful (I have been there and can personally attest to this) was bought by Hong Kong based fashion supplier Li & Fung.

Kroll administrator Peter Saville said: "We believe that the sale of the assets has achieved the best outcome for creditors in the current economic climate. Sadly, the closure of these stores and couture house has meant a number of redundancies have already been made, and we anticipate there will be further job losses as the wind-down progresses. This is yet another example of an iconic British company falling victim to the credit crunch."

The assets sold to Li & Fung's Fung Capital Europe include the Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell brands, the lease to the Savile Row store in London, and all of the licensing agreements owned by the group.

In 2008 a string of investments have soured for Arev - fashion brand Ghost, has warned of the same fate as Hardy Amies. Maternity retailer Blooming Marvelous, which it bought last year, is thought to require more funds. Some management teams, including Aspinal of London founder Iain Burton, are understood to be preparing buyouts.

Hardy Amies was a classic case of being in the right business at the wrong time. Arev, in our opinion, had ploughed the right furrow by bringing licensing back into the company and opening stores to create a retail name for the iconic brand. Unfortunately the credit crunch killed it off before it really got going. Seeing a 60 year old brand, such as Hardy Amies, disappear is a testament to how bad things are in the world of private equity.

The private equity party may be over in its old form and a few people will be licking their wounds for years to come, but you can bet that in 18 months time we will be toasting those who took the risk to dive into some businesses during these dire times.

I for one, hope Arev are one of them, if only so we can see which Coronation Street characters appears on their list next.

Oh, and by the way, sorry.....

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