Frasers slams Studio Retail management, corporate governance after buyout
Management of the failed Studio Retail Group (SRG) business has come in for scathing criticism from its new owner Frasers Group.
And its anger hasn’t stopped at the online retailer's former bosses. Frasers also said UK corporate governance needs urgent reform so those involved in business failure should be investigated and sanctioned. Further, it called for criminal penalties to be introduced for wrongdoing.
The group, which acquired SRG out of administration for a reported £28.6 million on Friday, saving around 1,500 jobs, accused Studio of having “buried its head in the sand whilst the world around it changed.”
It added: “It is clear that the fundamentals of its business were, at best inadequately scrutinised by its board and/or advisors to the business, or at worst, deliberately concealed as the business entered its death spiral.”
Frasers was SRG's largest shareholder, with a holding of just under 30%. The speedy takeover comes within a fortnight of SRG revealing its intention to call in administrators after a £25 million funding bid had failed. Last week, it called in administrators Teneo. On Friday, Frasers announced it had bought SRG.
The new owner said in a statement: “Frasers will always act when it considers it necessary to protect shareholder value such as in the past with the failure of Debenhams plc.
“Frasers wishes to be absolutely clear that it has long advocated that SRG was in need of a strategic review to maximise/protect shareholder value.
“Frasers wrote to SRG conveying such a view in Autumn 2020. Although Frasers tried to remain a supportive shareholder it indicated to SRG management a number of concerns around areas such as accounting estimates and judgements and whether management were taking a sufficiently conservative view.”
Looking at the wider issues, it added: “In the opinion of Frasers, if the regulation of business is to have any purpose at all it should be in ensuring that businesses and jobs do not simply disappear overnight, damaging lives, eroding shareholder value, and tarnishing the reputation of the UK business system as a whole.”
Frasers, which had lost out significantly after investing in the Debenhams and Goals businesses before SRG, said such failures of listed public companies “should not be seen as isolated incidents but rather as manifestations of systematic governance failures and a lack of corporate and individual accountability.”
It called on government to urgently prioritise “the meaningful regulation of UK business, including by fully investigating the collapse of all listed businesses, and imposing fines and/or criminal penalties on any individuals found to have been complicit in or responsible for any wrongdoing which contributed to their failure.”
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