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Jessops owner plans to call in administrators
The owner of camera chain Jessops, Dragons Den star Peter Jones, plans to call in administrators to help salvage the struggling High Street brand.
Mr Jones bought the chain from administrators in 2013 after it collapsed under £81m of debt.
But since then, the firm, which has 46 shops, has not made a single profit and losses have mounted in recent years.
Now Mr Jones reportedly intends to seek a rescue deal for the firm's property arm, JR Prop Limited.
Last year alone, the business, which employs 500 people, saw its rent costs increase to £4.7m.
Lease charges, which include rent on stores, increased from £4.4m in 2017.
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Now Mr Jones is reportedly planning to seek a rescue deal, known as a company voluntary agreement (CVA) with its landlords and lenders. This is an insolvency process that allows a business to reach an agreement with its creditors to pay off all or part of its debts.
Sky News said the CVA was expected to lead to store closures and rent cuts.
But sources close to Jessops said Mr Jones still saw a future in the business and would not say how many of the chain's stores were at risk of closure.
Mr Jones bought Jessops in March 2013, just months after it had gone into administration and closed its 187 stores.
At the time, he said the chain would reopen some of its High Street shops to give it between 30 and 40 stores across the country.
He told the BBC that he wanted the price charged in store to be the same as online.
"The main reason why I think it's going to be successful is that it's going to be a lower overhead base, lower cost," he said.
Asked then whether there really is a market for cameras that are not integrated into mobile phones, Mr Jones said: "The amateur photographer, you wouldn't see them walking down the street taking that perfect picture with a mobile phone."
But interest did not live up to his expectations.
He forecasted sales of at least £80m in the first year under his control. But he failed to turn around the group's performance and the firm reported turnover of just £7.5m for the year.
The chain is the latest High Street brand to acknowledge tough trading conditions.
Last year, big chains such as Toys R Us, Maplin and Poundworld went bust and vanished altogether.
Others such as Homebase, Mothercare, Carpetright and New Look did restructuring deals with their landlords, closing hundreds of shops between them.
Who is Peter Jones?
- The serial entrepreneur's first venture was to start a tennis coaching school, after spending his summers working at a tennis academy run by his English teacher
- That gave him a taste for the world of business and, in his 20s, he started a computer business. That allowed him "a nice house, a BMW, a Porsche, and plenty of money to spend", he later wrote
- But the good times didn't last forever and the firm went under after a number of its biggest customers went bust, forcing Mr Jones to move back in with his parents aged 29. He went to work for Siemens UK and a year later was running its UK computer business
- But he didn't remain an employee for long and in 1998, he started Phones International, which made him millions and earned him a seat as an investor on the BBC's Dragon Den
- On the show, he invested a total of £4,085,667 in firms including Levi Roots, known for its Reggae Reggae Sauce.