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Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post
Jon Robinson

How Mike Ashley's Frasers Group bought Studio Retail Group, Missguided and I Saw It First

The retail giant controlled by billionaire Mike Ashley has taken over three North West companies so far this year in a series of high-profile deals.

Frasers Group, which includes Sports Direct, House of Fraser and Jack Wills, snapped up Accrington-based Studio Retail Group and Missguided and I Saw It First, which are both headquartered in Manchester.

Both Studio Retail Group and Missguided owed more than £80m to creditors before being acquired while I Saw It First was bought towards the end of last month.

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Below, BusinessLive reveals why Frasers Group splashed the cash for the three companies.

Studio Retail Group

Studio Retail Group is a home shopping company that had been known as Findel plc up until July 2019.

The company started life as a catalogue retailer focused on gifts but has expanded dramatically online and now also sells clothes, home and electrical products on flexible payment terms.

Its shares had been traded on the London Stock Exchange until they were suspended on February 14, 2022, when it announced plans to appoint administrators.

Frasers Group acquired the company for £1 in a deal it said saved about 1,500 jobs. The transaction also included the release of £53.1m of secured liabilities under its revolving credit facility and ancillary facilities.

The group then acquired Studio Retail Group's secured lenders' claims against it for c.£26.8m.

BusinessLive reported in March that Studio Retail Group owed £50m for a revolving credit facility and £3.1m for other facilities when it entered administration.

It also owed c.£1,100 to employees for holiday pay and pension contributions and a further c.£4.7m to HMRC.

The sale came after the group approached HSBC in January to extend its facility but the request was denied.

At the end of January it issued a trading update which outlined its downgraded earnings expectations and referenced the need for additional funding.

As a result of that statement, the group's share price fell from 159p to 103p.


Missguided is one of the UK's most popular online fashion retailers (JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The first sign Missguided might have been in trouble came towards the end of 2021 when reports emerged that an investor in the likes of Bensons for Beds was considering buying a large stake in the online fashion retailer.

The move by London-based Alteri Investors was later confirmed and the firm plumped millions of pounds into the brand that had been founded by Cheshire-born Nitin Passi in 2009.

In February this year Missguided put a total of 140 jobs at risk as part of a "comprehensive restructure of the business".

In a statement, the firm said it had "not been immune" from the increased costs from supply chain disruption, inflation and a drop in customer demand that the fashion industry has faced over the last 18 months.

It later confirmed that 63 jobs had been axed and that Mr Passi had stepped down as its chief executive.

In May Missguided was said to be on the brink of collapse after it was issued a winding-up petition by suppliers owed millions.

Frasers Group then stepped in and bought the company for £20m and also brought Mr Passi back as Missguided's CEO.

BusinessLive revealed at the start of August how Missguided collapsed into administration owing more than £80m before it was rescued.

I Saw It First

Molly-Mae Hague is among the influencers who have worn I Saw It First products (ITV)

I Saw It First was set up in 2017 by Jalal Kamani, the brother of Boohoo co-founder Mahmud Kamani.

He was a founding director of Manchester-based Boohoo and previously served as its trading director.

I Saw It First hit national headlines two years after being founded when it became an official partner of hit ITV show Love Island.

According to the broadcaster, that deal helped the fashion brand add 250,000 new customers.

Ahead of being acquired, there has been change at the top of the business over the last year as chief technology and logistics officer Andrew Stevenson-Thorpe, chief financial officer Mo Marzouk and director Shahzad Irshad have all left.

Former Matalan deputy CEO Greg Pateras has also recently become its first chief executive while Jalal Kamani became chairman.

I Saw It First reported sales of almost £75m for its latest financial year but its pre-tax losses totalled £7.7m.

UK sales increased from £50.9m to £69.3m in the year but EU turnover fell from £5.7m to £4.5m and from £1m to £915,000 in the rest of the world.

It was announced at the end of July that I Saw It First had been acquired by Frasers Group for an undisclosed sum.


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