Business

Jaeger's former owner: "I could save it"

Harold Tillman Image copyright Getty Images

The former owner of Jaeger, fashion entrepreneur Harold Tillman, claims he "could rebuild" the business again if creditors share the cost.

In April the clothing chain collapsed into administration, putting 700 jobs at risk.

Mr Tillman is credited with reviving Jaeger's fortunes, before it was sold to Better Capital in 2012.

Administrators AlixPartners told BBC Radio 4's You and Yours that buyers are interested in the firm's assets.

In recent years Jaeger has suffered from stiff high street competition and falling sales.

However, fashion industry veteran Mr Tillman says he could repeat the success the business achieved after he bought it in 2003.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jaeger collapsed into administration in April putting 700 UK jobs at risk

"We got Jaeger into profit in 13 months, from annual sales of £45m in 2003 to £160m globally by 2012," he says.

"If it's in your DNA and you understand the product, the quality and the customer you can actually get the suppliers to recognise this very quickly."

As Jaeger's owner, Mr Tillman is regarded as having put together a strong management team led by Belinda Earl, now Style Director at Marks and Spencer.

"Between us we hired the best designers and took the brand to London Fashion week. We had press days attracting more than 500 journalists," he said.

'Lone ranger'

The entrepreneur, who admits he lost around £30m during his ownership of Jaeger, says he could do it all again but would need partners to share the financial risk.

"A group of creditors have asked me if I would lead a revival of the business," Mr Tillman told You and Yours.

"I still think I could, I have the ability and could recruit the people needed to do so. I have an obligation and a dream that I could rebuild it.

"It's not just about money. There are hundred of employees that deserve to be part of this company that they've given their life to," he added.

But Mr Tillman is clear he would need other investors to also commit millions: "I'm not going to be a lone ranger. It would need to be a group situation."

'Stardust'

Mr Tillman has been outspoken in his criticism of Lloyds Banking Group, whom he claims failed to give him 48 hours to repay them following a difficult period of trading in 2012.

Lloyds subsequently sold Jaeger to venture capital business, Better Capital.

Lloyds told You and Yours that Jaeger had been "under clear financial pressure, with a very clear risk that the business would fail in 2012".

Mr Tillman has since called for UK insolvency laws to be reformed to give management more time to implement turnaround plans.

He also thinks Better Capital were the wrong choice of owners: "I think they saw some stardust in the business," he said.

"Their dream was perhaps that this could be the next Burberry.

"I recognised from the first meetings I had with Better Capital that they never had a clue about the world of fashion," he added.

Better Capital declined to comment.

You and Yours is on BBC Radio 4 weekdays 12:15-13:00 GMT. Listen online or download the programme podcast.

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