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Exclusive: Baile in frame to buy Oddbins back?

Published:  07 April, 2011

Simon Baile is lining up an audacious bid to buy Oddbins from its administrators, Harpers understands.

The potential deal would allow him to regain control of the business and start from scratch, free of debt.

Baile is so far tight-lipped about the potential move, but it has been confirmed by several senior sources within the trade.

An experienced wine trade financial consultant claimed Baile, together with partner Henry Young, would be using private equity to fund a bid valued at up to £4 million, but would not take a prominent role in the process.

But there is nervousness among creditors, who are looking at getting just 7p back on every pound they are owed from Oddbins, which collapsed with debts of more than £20 million.

The source added: "They will not be the front men but they will be pulling the strings; when it becomes clear they are still involved it will be interesting to see how suppliers will react.

"The deal would be very feasible, although they will probably need to work with a new supplier base. The staff will just be happy to have kept their jobs."

When asked directly, Baile refused to comment on his "intentions for the future" but did not rule out a bid. He said: "The administrators have just been appointed and we are offering any help we can to ensure they are able to do their job."

He has always insisted the company was performing well but was badly affected by costs it had not anticipated when it bought the firm from Nicolas in 2008.

Trade concerns

But there are clear concerns in the trade if such a deal goes through. A former senior staff member said any attempt to buy the chain by Baile and Young would "be a scandal" if it were allowed to proceed, adding that there was no suggestion they "would do better this time round".

Another former insider told Harpers that administrators would whittle the number of stores down from 89 to around 40 or 50, adding that staff would "be in revolt".

A leading industry consultant added: "If it happened I would think there would be zero trade support."

Lee Manning and Matthew Smith, partners at business advisory firm Deloitte, were appointed joint administrators on Monday. So far they have not commented on potential buyers, other than to say they are in discussions with several interested parties about buying the business. They will continue to trade the company while seeking a sale.

  • See more coverage in this week's Harpers Wine & Spirit magazine, including details of the legal dispute with Nicolas UK, an exclusive interview with Simon Baile and comments from disgruntled suppliers.