bankruptcy | Jun 17, 2024 |
Oka seeks deal with creditors

Only days after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and abruptly closing down its U.S. operation, British home retailer Oka is looking for a deal to stave off bankruptcy in its home country. According to Sky News, the company has gone to court to seek approval for a CVA, or “company voluntary agreement”—a British legal process in which a distressed firm strikes a bargain with creditors that allows it to stay operational in order to pay debts.

The deal would see Oka shutter one of its 13 U.K. stores; the company would also likely lay off up to 40 of its 250 remaining employees, and the article reports that a distribution center and a head office would be “affected” by the move. Oka has already closed its entire stateside business, including its three stores in Houston, Dallas and Westport, Connecticut.

In recent weeks, Oka also filed paperwork to remove one of its founders, Lady Annabel Astor, from its board of directors.

According to Sky News, Oka’s owner, Investindustrial (also a major stakeholder in the Flos B&B Italia Group), is set to inject cash into the business if the deal is approved by both the courts and creditors. A partner at restructuring firm Teneo, which is overseeing the CVA, is quoted as saying that the company could receive as much as $5 million.

Oka’s origin story is both pedigreed and picturesque. The company was founded in 1999 by three friends: Lucinda Waterhouse, a skilled gardener who made luxurious faux florals; Sue Jones, whose decorating career included stints working for famed retailer Jasper Conran and legacy firm Colefax and Fowler; and Lady Astor, a viscountess and the mother-in-law of former British prime minister David Cameron. Their venture launched first as a catalog business selling imported artisanal homewares. Over the following two decades, Oka would go on to develop a network of outposts throughout the U.K. and an e-commerce business, offering an assortment of upscale home furnishings, tabletop and decor with a quirky, colorful, quintessentially British point of view.

In 2018 the company was acquired by Investindustrial. Three years later, it expanded into the U.S. and opened its first retail location in Houston.

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