Debenhams headed for administration as Mike Ashley’s rescue bid rejected

Debenhams is in deep trouble and sits on the brink of insolvency.

Over the last month there has been an almighty and increasingly bitter dust up about what should happen to it.

A dust-up between Mike Ashley - whose retail group, Sports Direct, is Debenhams' biggest shareholder - and the company’s lenders - among them, Silver Point Capital, a US hedge fund.

On Friday night, Ashley offered to underwrite an attempt to raise £150 million from Debenhams' shareholders in the form of a rights issue on the condition was installed as chief executive.

  • ITV News' Business Editor Joel Hills analyses how serious Debenhams' rejection is to the latest rescue offer from Mike Ashley's Sports Direct

The board of Debenhams spent the weekend discussing with lenders whether to accept the proposal.

In the end, finding common ground between the two sides has proved impossible because trust has broken down completely.

In the last few weeks Mike Ashley has made repeated attempts to oust the board of Debenhams.

He publicly accused the company’s directors of "incompetence" and being "deceitful" and suggested they were colluding with lenders to destroy shareholders value.

Sports Direct issued a statement on Sunday evening accusing the board of Debenhams and its advisers of a "sustained programme of falsehood". The statement called for trading in the company’s shares to be suspended and for two board members - Terry Duddy and David Adams - to take lie-detector tests.

On Monday afternoon the board formally rejected Ashley’s offer.

It looks like game over. For Mike Ashley, at least.

The expectation now is that Debenhams will be put into some form of pre-packaged administration. The company looks set to file a petition at the High Court, as soon as Tuesday morning.

The Sports Direct owner also bought House of Fraser. Credit: PA

The administration plan has been drawn up by FTI and structured in such a way that will affect Debenhams PLC but not the trading company. Put another way, the administration has been designed is such a way that wipes out Mike Ashley and the other shareholders entirely while keeping the business intact.

Under the plan Debenhams would be de-listed from the stock exchange and immediately reborn as a private company, owned by its lenders who have agreed to swap an unspecified amount of the £560m of debt that they are owed for equity.

For now, the 165 Debenhams department stores would trade as normal. Staff, suppliers, pensioners would be unaffected.

However change is coming. The Debenhams board has indicated previously that the willingness of lenders to agree to this restructuring is contingent on - among other things - "a significant overall reduction in the group’s rent burden".

The Debenhams management team - who will be retained post administration - are in the process of drawing up a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) which will involve the closure of up to 50 departments stores.

Debenhams cannot survive in its current form. In future the company will have fewer shops, less debt and will be privately owned.

Mike Ashley’s Debenhams adventure looks set to end in failure. Last summer Sports Direct wrote down the value of its 30% stake in the company by £85 million, now it’s set to become worthless.