Jack Wills, the preppy fashion brand worn by Prince Harry, has cancelled plans to float on the London Stock Exchange and announced that its founder is returning to the helm.
The clothing chain, known for emblazoning its brand name on underpants and T-shirts, said Peter Williams, founder and majority shareholder, was returning to the role of chief executive two years after stepping aside. The current chief executive, Wendy Becker, who joined as chief operating officer in 2012, is leaving the company.
Becker, a former Vodafone and Carphone Warehouse executive, said she agreed with the decision not to press ahead with an initial public offering. However, it is understood that she had wanted to pursue a flotation but was overruled by other members of the board.
The clothing brand was founded by Williams and his friend Robert Shaw in the well-heeled Devon resort of Salcombe in 1999. From one shop and a £40,000 investment, it has grown into a minor retail empire, with 62 stores in the UK, usually located in university towns and seaside resorts, plus 11 in the US and six in Asia.
The brand was reputedly named after Williams’s grandfather and markets itself as “fabulously British”. Last year designer Richard Nicoll, best-known for his androgynous sharp tailoring, was hired as part-time creative director in what was seen as a major departure for a brand best known for its Sloaney university chic.
The two founders own about 70% of the company, while private equity firm Inflexion has a 27% stake. The remainder is owned by the company’s management team, including Becker, who will keep her stock.
According to the most recent financial results, turnover grew to £118m in 2014, but the company chalked up a pre-tax loss of £6.7m. The dip into the red was explained by store closures and, above all, the decision to scrap the Aubin & Wills brand aimed at 25-to-40-year-olds who might have outgrown the original.
Williams said he was extremely excited about resuming his role as chief executive after a two-year break. He said: “I would like to thank Wendy for her significant contribution to the business and for putting in place the people and the processes that will enable us to continue our growth.”
Becker said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Jack Wills and, as a member of the board, fully agree with the decision not to press ahead with an IPO at this moment.”
This article was written by Jennifer Rankin, for theguardian.com on Thursday 27th August 2015 14.24 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010