Fashion chain New Look sold for £780m as Apax and Permira check out

A New Look store on Oxford Street, London.

A New Look store on Oxford Street, London. - Credit: PA

Fashion retailer New Look has been bought by a South African billionaire in a deal worth £780million.

Brait, an investment vehicle for retail magnate Christo Wiese, has acquired 90% of the chain, which trades from more than 800 stores.

The rest of the business will be owned by the family of Tom Singh, who founded the business in 1969, and other senior management.

The company, which has stores in 21 countries, is being sold by buyout firms Apax and Permira which took their stakes in New Look in 2004. They will also pass on about £1billion of debt.

New Look had planned to list on the stock market in 2010, but the move was shelved amid turmoil in the financial markets. Its return to the stock market has been the subject of intense speculation in the City ever since.

Brait said it was buying the business for its strong earnings, its large UK high street presence and its growth prospects in France, Germany, Poland and especially China which is a priority market.

It added that New Look’s chief executive Anders Kristiansen would remain with the business.

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Brait chief executive John Gnodde said: “New Look is an attractive investment opportunity for Brait; it is a market leading brand, with a strong track record of double digit earnings growth.”

New Look chairman Paul Mason added: “This is an ideal outcome for New Look. The Brait team demonstrated to us that they have the long-term vision to help Anders and the team grow this brand.”

Martin Halusa, chairman of Apax Partners said: “Funds advised by Apax Partners and Permira are glad to have accompanied New Look on its international expansion and ecommerce growth and delivered substantial returns to its investors. We would like to thank Anders Kristiansen and his team for their work in driving this strategy successfully.”

Mike Garland, a partner at Permira, added: “After 11 years of successful partnership, the New Look brand is stronger than ever and the company’s ecommerce and international operations are showing significant growth. We are very pleased with what we have achieved together and wish the New Look management team every success for the future.”

Mr Wiese has been linked with a string of UK retail takeovers in recent years, including a bid for department chain BhS, formerly owned by Sir Philip Green.

Brait also bought a controlling stake in the Virgin Active gym chain for just under £700m last month.

One of Mr Wiese’s other investment vehicles, Pepkor, is in the process of launching Pep & Co, a new discount fashion chain in the UK, with Andy Bond, a former boss at Asda. It plans to open 50 stores creating 500 new jobs by the end of the summer.