Modelzone founder’s bid to buy part of business

Modelzone, which has 43 stores including Castle Mall in Norwich has gone into administration

Modelzone, which has 43 stores including Castle Mall in Norwich has gone into administration - Credit: Archant

The founder of stricken toy chain Modelzone confirmed that he had looked to buy part of the business, including the Norwich store, but his overture had so far been rebuffed by administrators looking to sell the entire company.

Around 355 jobs are facing the axe at the collapsed retailer after administrators yesterday announced plans to start shutting stores.

Deloitte, which was appointed to handle the administration late last month, said it had begun consultations with employees and was drawing up a closure programme for Modelzone's 47 stores, including its Castle Mall outlet, over the next few days.

However company founder David Mordecai, chief executive of Norwich-based Tobar Group, the parent company of Hawkin's Bazaar, confirmed that he had looked to buy part of the business.

'We have had a look at it, in terms of buying 20 to 25 stores,' he said. 'At the moment the administrators will not look to break the chain up.

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'They are only looking to sell the whole lot.

'There is no deal to be done at the moment. However, as time progresses there may be – although as time goes on, it becomes less likely.'

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Mr Mordecai, who founded the business in 1987, said he left about 15 months after he became unhappy with the strategy being pursued by venture capitalists Lloyds Development Capital, which had funded a management buyout and had sought to inject about £4m into the business, which has seen a doubling of the number of stores.

'I am split down the middle – half of me feels vindicated in terms of what happened, since I left as I knew this was going to happen,' he added.

'The other half of me sees a fantastic team of people at Modelzone who are going to lose their jobs. I think that's a great shame. It's a brand that works well on the high street.'

Richard Hawes, joint administrator at Deloitte, said: 'Despite our continued efforts, we have been unable to identify a buyer for the retail business.'

However, in a fresh twist last night a Deloitte spokesman told the EDP that breaking up the group could still be on the cards.

'Anything can still happen,' she said.

'We haven't announced any store closures. If they do find a buyer for a handful of stores, they will obviously look at that.'

Modelzone – the UK's largest specialist toy and model chain – and its wholesaling arm, Amerang, hit the wall after the retailer lost out to online competitors and suffered hefty losses on onerous shop leases.

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