The Dragons’ Den star Peter Jones is weighing a sale of Jessops, the high street camera chain, after weeks of talks with landlords about a restructuring agreement failed to produce a deal.
Sky News understands that Mr Jones is holding talks with potential buyers of Jessops amid torrid trading conditions on Britain’s high streets.
The discussions with unnamed buyers are said to be at an early stage, and remain only one of the options being examined by the chain’s board.
“It’s now being looked at, but it’s far from certain, “said one source.
News of the potential sale comes six weeks after Mr Jones filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators to JR Prop Limited, which manages Jessops’ leasehold stores.
That notice was subsequently extended amid efforts to persuade landlords to support a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), a consensual restructuring deal that would have led to some store closures and rent cuts.
Insiders said that a sale could be structured as a pre-pack administration, although it was unclear on Wednesday whether the business could survive on a standalone basis without new financial support.
Resolve, an advisory firm, had been lined up as the administrator to JR Prop and could oversee a similar process at Jessops’ retail business to expedite a sale.
Mr Jones, who has enjoyed a long stint as one of the “dragons” on the BBC business show, has owned Jessops since 2013, when it emerged from a previous spell in insolvency.
Jessops employs about 500 people in total.
Mr Jones has backed companies across a range of sectors, both through Dragons’ Den and independently, and has held stakes in businesses including Red Letter Days, Levi Roots and Bladez Toys .
Sources close to Mr Jones said that since 2013, he had invested significantly in Jessops, including £ 5m in 2019 alone.
A review of Jessops’ business in recent months is understood to have led to a more comprehensive understanding of the financial performance of its store estate, insiders sai d.
Tough trading conditions, high rent costs and taxes such as business rates have conspired to leave scores of retailers struggling to salvage their futures in recent years.
Earlier this year, Debenhams’ parent company was forced into administration, although its stores continue to trade, while Sir Philip Green’s high street empire, Arcadia, has also limped on following a fierce battle with landlords.
Jack Wills, HMV and Karen Millen are among the other prominent retailers which have turned to insolvency processes in an effort to survive in 2019 .
Retailers have pleaded with the government for urgent reform of VAT, business rates and the introduction of an online tax which would seek to level the playing field for high street chains.