Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Dragon's Den star Theo gives hope to Woolies staff

BBC Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphitis (pictured) may launch a buyout of Woolworths which could save the jobs of dozens of workers in the company’s Minehead store.
Woolworths went into administration last week with £385 million of debt, but administrators Deloitte said it was hopeful of finding a buyer for the chain, which has 30,000 employees and 815 stores.
Mr Paphitis is said to be one of several people showing ‘substantial interest’ in the firm.
The millionaire businessman said in a statement: “If we were successful in our negotiations, then it would be my priority to safeguard the future of as many of the employees as possible.
“I would want to keep the Woolworths name alive as it is held with such deep affection, and I would of course want to keep trading as many of the high street stores as possible.”
Mr Paphitis said a speedy resolution was ‘absolutely crucial’ to keeping Woolworths together.
“I have a great belief in the Woolworths brand and would love to see the name remain on the high street,” he said.
Deloitte’s Neville Kahn, Nick Dargan, and Dan Butters have been appointed joint administrators to Woolworths plc and Entertainment UK (E UK) Ltd, the wholesale division on Woolworths.
Mr Khan, the reorganisation services partner, said: “Woolworths has suffered a number of cash flow problems.
“Strenuous efforts over recent weeks to keep these companies going have unfortunately failed and the businesses are now looking to be rescued under the administration process.
“The company will continue to trade. Stores will remain open past Christmas and employees in stores will be paid.
“We have mobilised a large Deloitte team to stabilise the business, and have hired Hilco as our agent to assist in the management of the retail business.
“We appreciate the co-operation and support from the management and staff.
“We are glad that arrangements are in place to ensure that all wages will be paid in full this week.”
Mr Butters said: “We are working hard to ensure that any sale of the business, whole or part, will preserve jobs.”
As well as trying to find a buyer for Woolworths, Deloitte will also be seeking to retrieve something for those owed money by the company, including banks and suppliers.
Mr Butters confirmed how within 24 hours of Deloitte’s appointment as administrators, expressions of interest in Woolworths had been received from ‘a number of parties’.

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