Belgian appointed CEO to save Debenhams

Belgian restructuring specialist Stefaan Vansteenkiste is promoted to CEO at Debenhams, in an attempt to save the British department store chain from bankruptcy.

 

Decisive months

Vansteenkiste succeeds Terry Duddy as Debenhams CEO, after just four months as head of the salvage operation as chief restructuring officer. He faces some very difficult months, that will decide about the chain's survival: in September Debenahms has to appear in court in a case that was started by, which owns six buildings in which a Debenhams is located. 

 

After striking a deal with three quarters of its creditors, Debenhams was granted protection from them - but CPC believes the deal was created unfairly. If the judge agrees with CPC, this may be the end for the famous department store chain. Also involved in the court case (supporting CPC) is Debenhams' minority shareholder Mike Ashley: the controversial Sports Direct owner also owns the chain's competitor House of Fraser and had hoped to become CEO of the chain he may now bring to an end.

 

Clear plan

The next big hurdle is the holiday season: in order to be able to buy sufficient supplies for Christmas, the retailer has started another 50 million pounds in loans. The owners therefore hope Vansteenkiste can get Debenhams afloat before that, and secure a good Christmas sales period. Vansteenkiste says he has a "clear plan" to realise a turnaround, building on a restructured balance sheet and favourable forecasts.

 

The retailer plans to close 50 of its 166 British stores, beginning with 22 early next year. The restructuring will also put an end to over 4,000 jobs.