SJ Berwin, Speechly advise on last-ditch rescue bid for MFI

Ashurst, Salans, SJ Berwin and Speechly ­Bircham have been handed leading roles in the rescue of troubled home furnishing MFI with an eleventh hour ­management buyout.


<a class=SJ Berwin, Speechly advise on last-ditch rescue bid for MFI” />Ashurst, Salans, SJ Berwin ;and ;Speechly ­Bircham have been handed leading roles in the rescue of troubled home furnishing MFI with an eleventh hour ­management buyout.

MFI’s ;management, advised ;by ;Speechly ­Bircham partner Andrew Clarke, has taken control of the company with financial backing from private equity house Merchant Equity Partners (MEP) after a weekend of crunch talks.

MEP, which bought the MFI group for £1 in 2006 but has now given up its stake, turned to Salans and Ashurst.

MFI had drafted in ­insolvency specialist Kroll before the rescue package was announced, and it would have been the largest retailer to fail since the ­credit crunch began.

MFI could still be put into ‘pre-pack’ administration, ;then removed, to close up to half its 200 stores.

Salans global restructuring chief Bryan Green is leading the team representing MEP, along with corporate head Richard Thomas and real estate consultant Alison Gaines.

The firm won the instruction through its relationship with Hilco Trading, one of two major investors that fund MEP’s activity.

Goldman Sachs, the other main investor in MEP, has instructed Ashurst ­private equity partner Steven Lloyd.

SJ Berwin restructuring partner Mike Woollard was drafted in to advise MFI Retail and MFI Properties.

The ;firm ;had ;been involved in the 2006 transaction, advising MEP when bought the retailer for £1.

Berwin Leighton Paisner is understood to be advising MFI on property matters.

MFI chief executive Gary Favell said the rescue would secure the future of the ­company and ensure it was “business as usual” for its customers and 3,100 staff.

According ;to ;press reports, Favell told landlords that MFI’s property division will be put into administration unless they agree to a three-month rent holiday from 29 September until Christmas Eve.