Baugur, the Icelandic company which owns a large number of high street shops in Britain, has gone bust. Its portfolio includes Hamleys, House of Fraser, jewellers Mappin and Webb and Watches of Switzerland. Enter Sir Philip Green with a shopping list.
A Baugur spokesman explained that talks with the Icelandic banks had collapsed last night. He said that the application "to enter into the moratorium process" - the equivalent of America's Chapter 11 protection - would give the company protection from its creditors for three weeks.
The spokesman also insisted that the day-to-day operations of the companies owned by Baugur would not be affected by today's news.
"The last thing we want to do is fuel fear on the high street that jobs will be lost," he said.
One rival retail executive said selling any retail businesses would be a tough task: "Most of these businesses are doing okay and their managements have been trying to organise buyouts for some time. But it is just impossible to get any financing. The banks just aren't doing any lending. The private equity people have got money but they are still dependent on being able to put debt in as well."
Shares in French Connection slumped by 10% this morning. More than 20% of its shares are owned by a group of Icelandic investors including Baugur. Debenhams shares slipped by 3% this morning.
They own or have stakes in:
Shoe Studio Group
Day Birger et Mikkelsen
House of Fraser
Magasin Du Nord
Mappin & Webb
Watches of Switzerland
Wyevale Garden Centres