David Jones acquired by Anchorage Capital for undisclosed sum

Private equity firm Anchorage Capital Partners has entered a binding agreement to acquire David Jones from South African retail company Woolworths Holdings for an undisclosed sum.

A spokesperson for Anchorage called the deal a “landmark transaction”, and said the firm was thrilled to take on the 183-year-old department store.

“David Jones has a storied history, immense brand value and unparalleled assets — including an attractive retail footprint, a loyal customer base, and dedicated employees,” the spokesperson said.

David Jones currently has 43 stores and two distribution centres across Australia and New Zealand, as well as a growing e-commerce business.

The spokesperson confirmed that David Jones CEO Scott Fyfe and his management team will remain on board and that Anchorage will support the retailer’s ongoing turnaround strategy, known as Vision 2025+.

The key pillars of that strategy include knowing and growing the customer base, being an omnichannel curator of world-class brands, delivering a seamless service experience and leveraging the skill and experience of its talented employees.

“The Anchorage team will work closely with CEO Scott Fyfe and the talented David Jones management team on the next phase of its transformation,” the spokesperson said.

Fyfe said that he and the Anchorage team see many opportunities to optimise value and innovation in the David Jones business.

“David Jones has been through a significant transformation, driven by our Vision 2025+ strategy, and I look forward to working with the Anchorage team to further enhance the leadership position of David Jones in Australia as the nation’s leading omnichannel retailer and one of its most loved and long-standing brands,” he said.

Woolworths Holdings acquired David Jones in 2014 for $2.1 billion, and has reportedly been looking to sell the business for several months, after a tough few years for the retailer, including declining sales and a costly foray into food halls.

In 2021, David Jones reportedly turned a profit for the first time since 2018, thanks in part to a number of costly impairments coming to an end and the Australian government’s JobKeeper wage subsidies. 

Anchorage will acquire the operating business of David Jones with the transaction expected to close by the end of March 2023, subject to customary closing conditions.

The sale will not include David Jones’ Bourke Street store in Melbourne, or the Country Road Group — Country Road, Mimco, Witchery, Trenery and Politix — which is also owned by Woolworths.

Earlier this year, Anchorage sold Brand Collective to Larry Kestelman’s private equity firm LK Group, also for an undisclosed amount.

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