Duff & Phelps is understood to be trying to gain control of former BHS owner Retail Acquisitions

Duff & Phelps is understood to be trying to gain control of former BHS owner Retail Acquisitions

The administrators of failed British department store retailer BHS have filed a High Court petition to wind up Retail Acquisitions, the chain's former owner, in a bid to track "millions of pounds" taken out of the business.

Duff & Phelps is understood to be trying to gain control of the company to "analyse the flow of cash" from BHS to Retail Acquisitions owner Dominic Chappell and his associates, a report by The Sunday Times revealed. 

The administrator is said to be looking into a sum of GBP1.5m (US$1.83m) used by Retail Acquisitions to pay off the mortgage on the Surrey home owned by Chappell's parents. Retail Acquisitions took a charge over the house as security for the loan. However, Chappell has since switched the charge to a property in Portugal, potentially putting the Surrey home beyond the reach of the administrators, the newspaper reported. 

Chappell, a serial bankrupt, used Retail Acquisitions to buy BHS for GBP1 from the Topshop billionaire Sir Philip Green in March last year. The retailer went into administration in April, and in June the administrators announced plans to liquidate the BHS UK business, after more than eight decades of trading and with the loss of up to 11,000 jobs. The retail chain's final stores closed down in August. 

According to The Sunday Times, Chappell's consortium borrowed GBP8.4m from BHS. Around GBP6m is still outstanding, although sources told the publication the GBP2.4m repaid so far consisted of deductions for "management services", rather than cash repayments.

Chappell is said to have missed the most recent quarterly repayment on this loan, allowing Duff & Phelps to argue the loan is in default. The administrator, working with lawyers at DLA Piper, is due to make its case in court on 31 October.

A spokesperson for Duff & Phelps confirmed the High Court petition but declined to provide any further details on the case. 

BHS's online and international businesses – including the BHS brand, including worldwide IP, international franchising and all domain names – were purchased by Qatari-based conglomerate Al Mana in July. 

BHS online and overseas operations sold off

A report by Sky News this morning (24 October) suggests the owners are looking to expand the brand and are on the verge of securing deals with franchise partners in ten new countries including Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Contracts have not yet been signed, however.

BHS International has 11 franchise partners in charge of 61 stores in 14 countries, including Malta, Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

Last week, MPs unanimously recommended former BHS owner Sir Philip Green be stripped of his knighthood and called on him to honour a pledge to fix BHS's GBP571m pensions scheme deficit.