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Could ABG Take Over Fallen Department Store Debenhams and Bankrupt Topshop Owner Arcadia?

Within the year, Authentic Brands Group successfully orchestrated the takeover of three major nationwide brands. Now, reports have suggested that it has its sights set on the other side of the Atlantic and is eyeing United Kingdom-based Debenhams and Topshop owner Arcadia Group.

According to British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, ABG was in discussions with the administrators of both companies over the weekend. The publication added that the American brand management firm was considering bids for Debenhams and Arcadia — a move that could put CEO Jamie Salter in direct competition with Mike Ashley, the billionaire businessman whose Frasers Group conglomerate has expressed interest in both chains.

Arcadia declined FN’s request for comment. FN has also reached out to ABG and Debenhams.

On Dec. 1, Debenhams revealed that it would permanently shut down all of its locations across the U.K., where it operates 124 outposts as well as its online platform. In a statement, the British department store said its struggles were compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, which led it to file for administration for the second time in the calendar year back in April. Along with FRP Advisory, it was neither able to find a buyer nor restructure its business and thus moved forward with a wind-down of its operations as it seeks offers for all or parts of the company.

The announcement from Debenhams came less than 24 hours after Topshop parent Arcadia Group began insolvency proceedings. The company — also owner of the Topman, Burton and Dorothy Perkins brands — tapped Deloitte as an administrator to oversee a “trading administration” as it plans to continue operations at its 444 locations in the U.K. plus 22 other units around the world.

Amid the COVID-19 health crisis, ABG has emerged as a retail powerhouse. This year, in partnership with SPARC Group — a venture created by ABG and mall behemoth Simon Property Group — it snapped up fast-fashion giant Forever 21, denim purveyor Lucky Brand and storied menswear clothier Brooks Brothers. (Last year in November, it acquired Barneys New York out of bankruptcy.) Speaking with FN in September, Salter said, “Our strategy hasn’t changed, and that’s to buy great iconic brands that are global and continue to license out by territory and by category. The one things that we’ve learned over the past 10 years is retail and e-commerce are a critical part of building a brand in order to take it global.”

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