The owner of the Harveys and Bensons for Beds furniture chain must be broken into a financial restructuring that will save at least 1,900 jobs in the retail sector that have been left in the balance due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Sky News has learned that Bensons is to be repurchased by its current owner, Alteri Investors, through a pre-pack administration that is expected to be confirmed within hours.
Between 150 and 175 Benson stores are expected to remain open under its renewed ownership, which means that around 50 will close permanently following the agreement.
Blue Group, the parent company of the chain, formally appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers as administrator on Tuesday, with the fate of the Harveys furniture retailer hanging in the balance.
In total, the group employs around 3,000 people, which means that more than 1,000 employees have not yet received guarantees about their future.
In a staff reminder seen by Sky News, Blue’s chief executive officer, Mark Jackson, wrote that he had to “take immediate action to ensure that the part of our business with the brightest prospects can rebuild as we emerge from COVID-19“.
Under the pre-pack with Alteri, Bensons will become an independent and vertically integrated business with the group’s bed production operations within the new company.
A source close to the trial said that Alteri would inject an additional £ 25 million in funding into the company to invest in technology, while all customer orders with Bensons and Harveys would be processed.
Bensons for Beds, founded in the 1950s, is the largest retailer of beds in the UK by store number and the second largest behind Dreams in terms of market share.
The two chains were acquired by Alteri just a few months ago, with the investor’s managing director, Gavin George, saying he was “excited to support Mark [Jackson, the chief executive] and the team in a successful business turnaround. “
Blue Group was owned by Steinhoff International, the troubled South African retail holding company, since 2005.
Alteri declined to comment on Tuesday.