Business

Landlords in legal challenge to House of Fraser rescue

House of Fraser store Image copyright Alamy

A group of landlords is going to court over the rescue plan for House of Fraser saying it treated them unfairly.

In June, House of Fraser creditors agreed to a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) - a rescue deal under which 31 stores were closed and rents at some stores were slashed.

The landlords said there was "unfair prejudice" against them in this action.

House of Fraser said it had not received any formal legal notice from the landlords about going to court.

"On the assumption that a challenge is filed in court, whilst we are disappointed, we look forward to robustly defending our position and we are confident that this will not affect our commercial plans," a House of Fraser statement said.

Advisors to the landlords said in their statement: "It is our view, and that of our legal counsel, that landlords have been disproportionately affected during this CVA process; not only compared to other creditors, but also to how they could have been treated if alternative routes to rescuing the business were fully explored."

Following the rescue deal China's C Banner, which is also the owner of Hamleys, took a 51% stake in House of Fraser.

C Banner also pledged to invest £70m in the remaining department stores.

'Undesirable leases'

The landlords hope the legal challenge, which will be heard in a Scottish court, will ensure future deals treat landlords more fairly.

"CVAs were designed as a means to rescue a business, not simply a tool to shed undesirable leases for the benefit of equity shareholders.

"The proposals should not be disproportionately detrimental to or prejudiced towards a targeted group of creditors. Our landlord group believes that House of Fraser and its advisors have failed on both counts," the statement said.

Commercial property owners are often pension funds, so the landlords argue that unfair treatment of them has a negative impact on retirement incomes.