Debenhams handover is expected to trigger a wave of store closures

BRITAIN-COURT-ASHLEY

BRITAIN-COURT-ASHLEY

With the last grasp takeover ditched the firm - with large stores in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Colchester - has now gone into administration.

Towards the end of 2018, the chain announced it was increasing its store closure plans from 10 to 50 over a three to five-year period.

Administrators were appointed on Tuesday after Ashley's last-ditch bid to rescue the company failed.

The department store group said its 165 outlets would continue to trade under a pre-pack deal which only affects its listed holding company.

The group's lenders want to close up to 50 stores via an insolvency process known as a company voluntary arrangement.

Ipswich's former BHS store has been vacant for almost three years, and while there have been proposals to convert it into new uses but nothing has happened there yet.

The decision has wiped out shareholders, including Newcastle United FC owner Mr Ashley. The rescue plan was worth £150 million.

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Earlier this morning, Suffolk shoppers were warned to use any Debenhams gift vouchers as soon as possible or risk losing the money.

"The trustees have worked with our specialist advisers throughout the process of the company's refinancing and restructuring, to ensure that members" interests are taken into account and we have consulted closely with The Pensions Regulator and the Pension Protection Fund at every stage.

Once the country's biggest department store chain, Debenhams had been hit by a sharp slowdown in sales, high rents and ballooning debt, plus an acrimonious power struggle with billionaire Ashley's Sports Direct.

Debenhams said in a statement: "The board confirms that it received a revised, highly-conditional, proposal from Sports Direct in the early hours of April 9, which indicated a willingness of Sports Direct to underwrite an equity issue of £200 million".

Mr Ashley has been desperately trying to gain control of Debenhams, but the retailer said his proposal, which would have made him chief executive, was "not sufficient".

Debenhams said none of the offers were "deemed deliverable" given conditions attached, timing, and "other stakeholder obligations and considerations".

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