Landlords accused Clarks of misusing the halt to commercial evictions as it pushed the shoe chain through a legal deal that would reduce the rent it pays 60 stores to zero.
Creditors on Friday approved a bankruptcy process known as the Company’s Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), which would eliminate rental arrears at more than 300 outlets as well as reduce future rental bills.
The rent of 60 stores will not be paid and hundreds of others will switch to rents based on sales – a move that will hit owners’ income during the closure of major streets during the coronavirus pandemic.
Clarks’ vote on the CVA deal included property owners, but their opposition was voted on by other creditors, such as the chain pension fund, shoe suppliers and store sellers.
The deal comes as retailers and other businesses continue to trade from thousands of outlets despite not paying rents and thanks to a halt in evictions, which will continue until the end of the year. The government introduced this measure to give companies time to agree on how to share the pain of months of difficult trade.
Melanie Leish, CEO of the British Monarchy, which represents hundreds of owners, said: “Clarks is taking advantage of the government’s suspension of evictions, and is failing to pay rents due since March, despite her ability to reopen the door and take advantage of substantial government financial support.”
She said the deal undermined the government’s code of practice, which states that tenants and landlords should work together to negotiate rental agreements and develop a joint economic recovery plan in the face of Covid-19 and trade restrictions.
“Clarks CVA continues its worst insolvency practices, with no meaningful vote for landlords on the tough measures that affect them disproportionately,” said Vivian King, chief executive of Revo, which brings together shopping malls, local councils and other real estate firms.
“During the pandemic, Clarks benefited from the vacation and vacation rate plan and still failed by her management. It is disgraceful that owners are expected to face the consequences and support the company financially, having not received a rent since March.”
The CVA is a major step in the established Clarks family’s deal to sell a majority stake in the company to the private equity firm LionRock Capital.
“The CVA, combined with the proposed investment from LionRock, will provide a stable platform in which to implement the management transformation strategy,” said Gavin Maher, partner at Deloitte, the consultancy that helped secure the CVA.
Which company It announced a loss of 900 jobs in May, Is also expected to chop at least 700 jobs As part of the reorganization of store management and store property. The company said it could not confirm the number of layoffs.