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Who owns Boohoo? Background and net worth of businessman Mahmud Kamani as his fashion brand buys Debenhams

The Scotsman logo The Scotsman 25/01/2021 Jenna Macfarlane

Kamani’s son Umar co-founded other fashion company PrettyLittleThing

Snoop Dogg, Carol Kane posing for the camera © Mahmud Kamani (left) with Snoop Dogg, co-founder Carol Kane and son Samir Kamani (Getty Images)

Fast-fashion retailer Boohoo has purchased the Debenhams brand and website in a £55million deal.

The deal does not include any of the retailer’s 118 high street stores, with the shops expected to close for good - meaning thousands of jobs are at risk.

Debenhams started liquidation procedures at the end of last year after administrators failed to secure a rescue deal for the brand. It had already announced that six of its stores would permanently close.

Boohoo has called the deal “transformational”.

So, who owns Boohoo, when was the fashion brand founded – and why has it bought Debenhams?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Read more: Debenhams analysis: What future for the Scottish high street?

Who owns Boohoo?

Boohoo is an online fast-fashion brand for young women and men which sells clothing at cheap prices with fast delivery.

The Boohoo Group is owned by billionaire British businessman Mahmud Kamani, who co-founded the company alongside Carol Kane, the joint CEO of the brand.

In 2020, Kamani stepped down as co-CEO to become executive chairman of the company - a move which, according to The Times, gave him more power.

Kamani, 56, is now one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs with a net worth of just over £1billion.

Read more: Remembering the fading glory of Scotland's high streets

When did Kamani found his brand?

Kamani began his fashion empire by selling cheap, wholesale clothes to UK high street retailers, like H&M and Primark.

He launched Boohoo in 2006 after seeing the potential of an online-only store which cut out the middleman and sold garments directly to customers.


Video: Boohoo buys Debenhams brand for £55 million (Daily Record)

In less than 15 years, Boohoo went from a company with three employees to a global business with a 5,000-strong workforce.

How much is Boohoo worth?

Thanks to its success, the brand is now worth around £3.5billion.

Boohoo is also the parent company of other popular fast fashion brands, PrettyLittleThing, Nasty Gal and Miss Pap.

Kamani’s sons Adam and Umar worked for the Boohoo brand before co-founding PrettyLittleThing in 2012, which was valued at about £2billion in April 2017.

The Boohoo Group came under fire after a Sunday Times investigation in July 2020 revealed employees at the company’s Leicester clothing factories were paid only £3.50 an hour.

At the time, Boohoo said it would investigate the report and called the factory conditions “totally unacceptable”.

Read more: Online shopping charges have changed since Brexit - everything you need to know

Why did Boohoo buy Debenhams?

Administrators have been seeking offers for all or parts of the Debenhams business since it went into liquidation in December 2020.

Boohoo confirmed that it was purchasing the brand and its website, using its existing cash reserves, on Monday 25 January 2021.

Mahmud Kamani said the sale would allow Boohoo to become a leader in other retail categories as well as fashion, including beauty and homeware.

Speaking about the deal, he said: "This is a transformational deal for the group, which allows us to capture the fantastic opportunity as ecommerce continues to grow.

“Our ambition is to create the UK's largest marketplace.

“Our acquisition of the Debenhams brand is strategically significant as it represents a huge step which accelerates our ambition to be a leader, not just in fashion ecommerce, but in new categories including beauty, sport and homeware."

Debenhams had been struggling for years with falling profits after the rise of online shopping, as its troubles were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic when shops were forced to close during lockdown.

The company had called in administrators twice in two years, the last time being in April 2020.

It is not the only high street brand that Boohoo has bought out of administration - the retailer also purchased Oasis, Coast and Karen Millen, but not the companies’ stores.

Will Debenhams be online-only?

As the Boohoo deal does not include any of Debenhams’ high street shops, the brand will relaunch as an online-only store.

That means the 242-year-old retailer’s physical shops are expected to close permanently.

Boohoo said it planned to launch the brand on its web platform later this year, creating an “exciting online marketplace”. Until then, Debenhams will continue to operate its own website.

It added: “The group will only be acquiring the brands and associated intellectual property rights - the transaction does not include Debenhams' retail stores, stock or any financial services.”

Boohoo also said that it intends to expand Debenhams’ product categories and its suppliers.

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