[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 August 2005, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Gift firm thrown dragon lifeline
Red Letter Days founder and chief executive Rachel Elnaugh
Ms Elnaugh recently finished filming a second series of Dragon's Den
Adventure experience firm Red Letter Days has been rescued, just one day after announcing it was in trouble.

The firm, run by Dragons' Den TV show judge Rachel Elnaugh, went into administration on Monday, weighed down by debts.

But another Dragons' Den judge Peter Jones is teaming up with ex-Millwall chairman Theo Paphitis to buy the company's assets.

The deal means more than 150 Red Letter Days employees could keep their jobs.

Red Letter Days' creditor suppliers, however, are unlikely to see any money from the administrator, the new owners said.

Vouchers

News of Red Letter Days' difficulties left thousands of customers who held vouchers for Red Letter Days' adventure trips such as hot air ballooning and bungee jumping in limbo.

In a statement posted on Red Letter Days' website, Mr Jones and Mr Paphitis said they were ready to honour all experiences that had been bought directly from the firm through Visa and MasterCard.

They could not guarantee vouchers bought through High Street shops - but said they were putting in place measures to make sure these were honoured too.

"We envisage that very soon it will be business as usual," the new owners said in a joint statement.

'Experience gifts'

RLD chief executive Ms Elnaugh set up the firm 15 years ago, at the age of 24, after searching high and low for a birthday present for her father.

We are very pleased to have completed the sale for Red Letter Days quickly, therefore removing any confusion and uncertainty about its future
Andrew Pepper, Kroll

Red Letter Days offers vouchers for more than 1,000 activities through department stores and online.

"Experience gifts" include high-octane motor racing, piloting a jet fighter, climbing Mount Everest and gentler pursuits such as lessons with TV gardener Charlie Dimmock or cooking with a celebrity chef.

Vouchers are sold on the company's website and at department stores such as Harrods, Selfridges and House of Fraser.

According to its website, the company is a 20m business leading a market that is now worth 200m a year, and earlier this year said it had ambitions to float on the stock exchange.

Unpaid bills

But the company was forced into administration on Monday after suffering "cash flow difficulties" that could not be cured without further cash injections.

Several suppliers had stopped accepting vouchers in the past week due to unpaid bills.

New owners Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis said that, though these suppliers are unlikely to receive any cash from the administrator, a "significant majority" have said they still want to support the business now that its future is more secure.

Administrators Kroll said the pair had paid an undisclosed sum to take control of Red Letter Days.

"We are very pleased to have completed the sale for Red Letter Days quickly, therefore removing any confusion and uncertainty about its future," said Andrew Pepper at Kroll.


SEE ALSO:
Adventure firm in possible buyout
31 Jul 05 |  Business
Surviving the Dragons' Den
22 Feb 05 |  Business
British women close business gap
21 Jan 05 |  Business


RELATED BBC LINKS:

RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific