Crunch time for BHS

BHS store Image copyright PA

Later today we should know whether there is another chapter to be written in the 88-year history of BHS or whether it is the end of the road. I say "should" because this administration process has dragged on longer than many, including me, thought likely.

Some well-known and credible retail heavyweights have drifted into the frame as potential buyers - Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley, Matalan founder John Hargreaves, the family behind Poundstretcher - before drifting out again. These are people with well documented personal fortunes and bags of retailing expertise.

By contrast, Richess Group, the leading candidate to save BHS today is thought to be backed by a rich Portugese family about which little is known and fronted by the brother of cricketer Phil Tufnell.

Greg Tufnell did spend three years as managing director of Mothercare but hasn't done anything on that scale since stepping down 16 years ago. Understandably, the administrators are less comfortable with this last bid, hence the extended period of due diligence. It is still possible they could take a lower bid from a more familiar face.

The outcome is finely balanced. The 11,000 jobs that also hang in the balance are not the first priority of the administrators Duff and Phelps. Their first concern is the people to whom BHS owes money. If they can recover more for the creditors by selling the chain store by store, brick by brick in a liquidation, they are required to take that option.

It is not just the staff hoping a deal can be done. Former owners Sir Philip Green and Dominic Chappell will also have their fingers and toes crossed. Both are due to appear before parliamentary committees to answer questions on their role in the collapse of BHS. That will be a very, very uncomfortable place to be if it is against the backdrop of 11,000 redundancies.

The story of BHS will live on regardless through investigations by the Insolvency Service, legal action by the administrators against Dominic Chappell and a potential investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. As I've said before in this blog, the cast of characters is worthy of a mini-series. Today they will be hoping for a happy ending.

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