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Philip Green's Arcadia fights for survival after COVID-19 hit


By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) - Retail magnate Philip Green's Arcadia, which owns Topshop and many other British fashion brands, said it was working on a number of options to secure its future after the COVID-19 pandemic hammered its business.

Sky News earlier reported on Friday the group risked going into administration within days, threatening 15,000 jobs.

"The forced closure of our stores for sustained periods as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a material impact on trading across our businesses," the company said in a statement.

"As a result, the Arcadia boards have been working on a number of contingency options to secure the future of the group’s brands."

In what could be Britain's biggest corporate collapse of the pandemic so far, Sky said Arcadia was preparing to appoint administrators from Deloitte as soon as Monday to handle the process.

Arcadia, which Green purchased for 850 million pounds in 2002, is a major force on the British high street. In addition to Topshop, it owns Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Wallis, Miss Selfridge, Evans and Burton brands, trading from over 500 stores.

Arcadia said its brands continued to trade and its stores would reopen next week when the government's latest pandemic restrictions ease.

The company declined to comment beyond its statement. Deloitte was not immediately available to comment.

STRUCTURAL CHALLENGE

Even before the pandemic, bricks and mortar clothing retail in Britain was facing a major structural challenge with the economics of operating stores on traditional leases proving increasingly difficult as more trade migrates online.

Already this year Debenhams, Oasis, Warehouse, Laura Ashley, Peacocks and Jaeger have fallen into administration.

Arcadia's demise would likely bring down the curtain on the 68-year old Green's extraordinary career.

He was once known as the "king of the high street" and twice tried and failed to buy Marks & Spencer.

In 2005 Arcadia famously took on more debt and paid Green's wife Tina, Arcadia's registered owner, a 1.2 billion pound dividend.

But Green's star has dramatically waned in recent years.

His reputation was badly damaged by the collapse of department store chain BHS in 2016 and its aftermath. Green had sold BHS to a collection of little-known investors for a nominal sum of a pound the previous year.

Then in 2018, Green was named in Britain's parliament as having taken legal action to try to prevent publication of allegations of sexual harassment against him. He has denied the allegations.

($1 = 0.7500 pounds)

(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Kate Holton/Guy Faulconbridge and Carmel Crimmins)

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