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Next in talks to buy fashion brand FatFace in £100M deal


The clothing brand FatFace is poised to become the latest high street fashion retailer to be taken over by Next, in a deal thought to be worth more than £100m.

FatFace, which sells clothes, footwear and accessories, is expected to be bought by the FTSE 100 high street fashion chain and a deal could be announced by the end of the week, according to Sky News, which first reported on the matter.

The prospective tie-up underlines Next’s status as Britain’s most prolific buyer of rival high street brands, having snapped up Cath Kidston, Made.com and JoJo Maman Bébé since the Covid pandemic.

FatFace was founded in 1988 by friends Tim Slade, a former police officer, and Jules Leaver, a business graduate. It now has more than 180 stores in the UK and 20 in the US.

The pair first sold 40% of the business for £5m in 2000 to the private equity firm Livingbridge, which sold its stake to Advent International five years later.

The lifestyle brand was eventually acquired by Bridgepoint Capital in 2007 as part of a deal worth £360m that reportedly netted Slade and Leaver £90m. The private equity firm moved to list it in London in 2014 but later cancelled the flotation plan because of lack of confidence.

By mid-2020, when the pandemic was affecting high streets, FatFace was taken over by its current owners, a group of lenders including the debt investor Alcentra, Goldman Sachs and Lloyds Bank, in a debt-for-equity swap.

FatFace’s debts were reduced from £146.8m to £25.6m, freeing it up to carry on trading throughout Covid. Sales have since returned to pre-pandemic levels.

The company’s owners were reported to have appointed bankers to advise on strategic options, including a potential sale, in May last year.

Last month Next increased its stake in Reiss to 72% in a deal that valued the fashion retailer at almost £400m.

It had built a 51% stake in the business since 2021 and the Reiss family have struck a £128m deal to buy a 34% shareholding from the private equity company Warburg Pincus. After the completion of the deal, Next will control 72% of the retailer – a favourite of the Princess of Wales – the Reiss family will own 22% and the company’s management team will control 6%.

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