Insolvency Rescue Awards: 6 consulting firms shortlisted

30 September 2014

Tomorrow, on 1st October 2014, the Insolvency & Rescue Awards will be take place in London, an event which celebrates excellence and best practices in insolvency and business rescue. Six consulting firms have been shortlised as finalists.

Insolvency & Rescue Awards
The Insolvency & Rescue Awards is an annual award ceremony during which excellence and commitment to rescue of individuals, teams and companies within the insolvency and corporate recovery industry, and as well as best practices are recognised. This year represents the seventh year of these annual awards, and around 800 insolvency professionals from 200 companies are expected to attend the ceremony. This year’s ceremony will take place on Wednesday 1 October 2014, at the Lancaster London Hotel. 

Insolvency & Rescue Awards 2014

The awards are divided in 30 categories, including, among others, Asset and Invoice Finance Provider of the Year, Banking Restructuring Team of the Year, Best use of Technology, Business Rescue Financier of the Year, Business Rescue of the Year, Corporate Recovery Firm of the Year, International Firm of the Year, and Personal Insolvency Practitioner of the Year.

Consulting firms
Among the nominees, six consulting firms can be found, with a total of 24 nominations between them. An overview of their nominations:

Firms nominated for Insolvency Rescue Awards

- Business Rescue of the Year – £21million plus turnover: Aircraft engine component supplier
- Corporate IP of the Year: Kieran Wallace
- Corporate Recovery Firm of the Year – 11 or more licensed appointment taking IPs
- Insolvency Manager of the Year: Steve Bunn
- Insolvency Team of the Year
- International Firm of the Year
- Personal IP of the Year – working within firms >11 licensed appointment taking IPs: Wendy Wardell
- Rising Star Award: Victoria Horishny
- Turnaround Practitioner of the Year: Mark Raddan

- Business Rescue of the Year – £21million plus turnover: Albemarle & Bond: (with Barclays and Lloyds)
- Corporate IP of the Year: David Baxendale
- Corporate Recovery Firm of the Year – 11 or more licensed appointment taking IPs
- Insolvency Team of the Year
- International Firm of the Year
- Rising Star Award: Brad Lintern

- Insolvency Manager of the Year: Matt Carter
- Insolvency Team of the Year: Mazars National Creditor Services
- Personal Insolvency Firm of the Year

Grant Thornton
- Business Rescue of the Year – £21million plus turnover: Thomson Directories
- Corporate Recovery Firm of the Year – 11 or more licensed appointment taking IPs
- International Firm of the Year

Baker Tilly
- Best Use of Technology
- Personal IP of the Year – working within firms >11 licensed appointment taking IPs: Mark Sands

- International Firm of the Year

In addition to being shortlisted as finalist, four of the six consulting firms will contribute by providing a judge to the jury*, and Mazars will also sponsor the award ‘Personal IP of the Year – working within firms with 11 or more licensed appointment taking IPs’.

* David Chubb - Partner at PwC, Chris Laverty - Partner at KPMG, Ann Nilsson - Partner at Mazars, and Mark Sands - Partner at Baker Tilly, will be part of the jury.


Debenhams administrator handed legal threat from Sports Direct

24 April 2019

Earlier in April 2019, the long-suffering high street entity of Debenhams finally collapsed into a pre-pack administration, wiping out equity for shareholders including Sports Direct. Now, Mike Ashley, the controversial owner of Sports Direct, has threatened legal action to remove FTI Consulting from its role as Debenhams’ administrators, following the obliteration of his stock in the company.

As the retail sector in the UK continues to endure a torrid period, British retail stalwart Debenhams endured a spectacular fall from grace. The high street ever-present was founded in the early 19th century, with a single store in London, before expanding to 178 locations across the UK, Ireland and Denmark. However, following a string of profit warnings and several rounds of lay-offs, the company engaged advisors from Big Four firm KPMG to consider its options in the Autumn of 2018.

At the time, Debenhams Chairman Sir Ian Cheshire insisted that the chain was not heading for insolvency, or that it was actively embarking on a company voluntary agreement (CVA). Nevertheless, Debenhams fell into administration in Spring 2019. The news saw Chad Griffin, Simon Kirkhope and Andrew Johnson of FTI Consulting appointed as joint administrators, immediately selling the retailer to a newly incorporated company controlled by secured lenders.

Debenhams administrator handed legal threat from Sports Direct

The pre-pack administration deal meant Debenhams was able to access significant additional funding, preserving 165 of its stores, though plans to close around 50 under-performing stores in the next three to five years remain in place. At the same time, the deal maintained its commercial relationships with suppliers, employees and pension holders. However, it also effectively led all of Debenhams’ previous shareholders – including the retail magnate Mike Ashley – to lose their equity.

Ashley’s Sports Direct firm had increased its stake in the department store chain in 2018, but stopped just short of the 30% stake which would require it to put in a formal offer to fully acquire the business. The transaction fuelled speculation that Ashley was waiting for the opportune time to acquire Debenhams, particularly in the wake of his swoop for House of Fraser. Ashley’s deal there enabled Sports Direct to buy the firm out of administration in a pre-pack deal, allowing the new ownership to controversially wash its hands of the company’s pension scheme in the process.

While some believed this was Ashley’s intent for Debenhams, FTI’s decision to sell the store to its creditors has instead resulted in a sizeable loss for Ashley. The hit of around £150 million from his loss in Debenhams comes after an analysis by The Sunday Telegraph suggested the tycoon had accrued “a sprawling web of stakes” in rival companies, and that he may be nursing losses of more than £500 million.

Bad press

Ashley – who recently lost a complaint ruling by British press regulator Ipso allowing the Times to note that he shared many characteristics with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un – has been outspoken in his contempt for FTI since the news broke of Debenhams’ sale. The Sports Direct CEO has called for the resignation of FTI from its role as administrator, after his stake in the department store chain was wiped out. The Guardian stated that a letter to FTI saw Sports Direct’s lawyers even threaten legal action to remove the advisory firm as administrators because of a conflict of interests.

According to the reports, the document claimed, “[Sports Direct] will do everything available to it to unwind the damage caused to the company and other stakeholders (including large and small shareholders) by the events of today including but not limited to challenging the appointment [of FTI as administrators] and all consequences of it.”

The letter allegedly claims that FTI had been involved with Debenhams since the second week of February, and had engaged with the group’s lenders. The legal team reportedly suggested that this would consistute a conflict of interest, because FTI sold the retailer’s operating companies to the same lenders via a pre-pack administration.

This comes weeks after Sports Direct was itself accused of becoming overly cosy with a professional services firm, which has seen its auditor Grant Thornton placed under scrutiny for its continued role with the firm. In 2018, it was reported that Grant Thornton was set to stand aside from the role due to competition rules. It had held the role since before Sports Direct floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2007, while Phil Westerman, the Partner at Grant Thornton responsible for signing off Sports Direct's accounts, had himself undertaken the work for five years. 

Neither situation is understood to have changed, leading to the questioning of the independence of Grant Thornton’s auditing work with Sports Direct. Such is the level of bad press surrounding the retailer, that the Big Four of the accounting and advisory world – wary of incurring a new scandal of their own – are said to have ruled out taking the contract over.