Jobs at risk in Dragon's Jessops rescue plan

16 October 2019, 11:09 | Updated: 16 October 2019, 17:39

Dragons' Den star Peter Jones is preparing to call in administrators as he tries to salvage a future for Jessops, the high street camera chain he bought six years ago.

Sky News has learnt that JR Prop Limited, which manages Jessops' leasehold property estate, has filed a notice of intention to appoint Resolve, a restructuring advisory firm, as administrator.

The move will cast a further shadow over Britain's embattled high streets and raises the prospect of a significant number of Jessops' 46 shops being shut during the coming months.

Sources said on Wednesday that Mr Jones had decided that placing JR Prop into insolvency proceedings would provide the most effective means of streamlining Jessops' operations to ensure their survival.

Store managers were briefed on the plans on Wednesday morning.

If the administration is confirmed, Mr Jones is expected to seek to agree a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) with creditors that would lead to store closures and rent cuts.

Jessops employs about 500 people in total, with an unspecified number of jobs at risk from a restructuring of the business.

The main Jessops retail operations are not affected by the prospective appointment of Resolve as administrator to the property company.

Mr Jones is one of the most recognisable businessmen in the UK thanks to his long stint on the BBC show Dragons' Den, in which aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of seasoned investors.

He has backed companies across a range of sectors, both through the programme and independently, and has held stakes in businesses including Red Letter Days, Levi Roots and Bladez Toys.

The entrepreneur's effort to overhaul Jessops comes six years after he bought the brand from administrators following a previous spell in insolvency proceedings that cost as many as 2,000 jobs.

Sources close to Mr Jones said that since then, he had invested significantly in the business, including £5m in 2019 alone.

Neil Old, Jessops' chief executive, left the company in August and has since gone on to run the UK operations of Signet, the jewellery retailer which owns H Samuel.

The camera retailer's finance chief also left at about the same time.

A review of Jessops' business in recent months is understood to have led to a more comprehensive understanding of the financial performance of its store estate, insiders said.

Discussions with landlords have been under way for some time, although the move to appoint administrators is said to have been necessary in order to progress the restructuring.

Mr Jones is thought to believe that Jessops has a viable future in a restructured form.

Tough trading conditions, high rent costs and taxes such as business rates have conspired to leave scores of retailers struggling to salvage their futures in recent years.

In recent months, Debenhams' parent company has been forced into administration, while Sir Philip Green's high street empire, Arcadia, only narrowly avoided the same fate following a fierce battle with landlords.

Jack Wills, HMV and Karen Millen are among the other prominent retailers which have turned to insolvency processes in an effort to survive in 2019.

Retailers have pleaded with the government for urgent reform of VAT, business rates and the introduction of an online tax which would seek to level the playing field for high street chains.

A spokesperson for Jessops declined to comment.