OPTICAL Express has been saved from the fate of a flurry of collapsed retailers by an eleventh-hour cash injection from its Scottish chairman and founder.
David Moulsdale, the son of a Glasgow taxi driver, mounted the rescue after Royal Bank of Scotland refused a request for more loans. His move is seen as safeguarding 1,600 Optical Express jobs in the UK and Ireland.
Reports said that last week the company, which has 93 stores and 54 consultation centres, as well as operations in the US and mainland Europe, asked for a multi-million pound loan to pay staff.
However, the business owed RBS more than £30 million, and it is understood the bank threatened to call in its debt and sell the business on to new investors. RBS has declined to comment.
A spokesman for Optical Express said: “David has agreed to acquire the entire debt owed to RBS by Optical Express and will inject significant working capital into the group, positioning it in a highly secure position for continued growth. We anticipate completing the transaction by Monday morning. However, it’s business as usual in our stores and clinics as we work through the final documentation.”
Moulsdale set up the company in 1991 with a single shop in Edinburgh, after which it grew via takeovers of provincial chains and expanded into laser eye surgery, dentistry and cosmetic surgery.
Moulsdale’s fortune is estimated at £60m.
It is understood the entrepreneur has bought the bank’s loans at a fraction of their face value, averting administration.
Optical Express’s parent group, Cumbernauld-based DCM (Optical Holdings), slumped to a £1.5m pre-tax loss in 2011 – the last year for which figures are available – from a profit of £6.8m in 2010 as sales fell 8 per cent to £188m from £205m.
Optical Express announced it was closing 40 stores last October after a subsidiary went into administration.