Could Proventus have avoided this amount of pain?


Jo Francis wonders why Polestar's owners missed a crucial window of opportunity.

While awaiting the outcome of what must surely be some fairly fraught negotiations over the future of the various Polestar operations in administration, I’m returning to the issue of how on earth the business has ended up in this mess.

Not, in this instance, the 18-year track record of losses in pursuit of an ultimately flawed business strategy.

Rather, the period since just before Christmas when Polestar faced the prospect of running out of cash and Proventus Capital Partners, its largest lender, was effectively forced to take over the ownership of the group just eight months after becoming involved with it.

These corporate finance experts are supposed to be super-smart, right? Seems to me that the smart thing for Proventus to have done back then would have been to quietly engage with the handful of people likely to be interested in all or part of the Polestar business, with the intent of equally quietly constructing a deal to offload it toot suite.

No doubt such a deal would have been complex, it would have been financially painful for Proventus, it might even have been a form of pre-pack, but it would all have been done with at least an element of control.

I don’t think it would have been as painful for the Swedes as where they are now. 

And, based on the fact that we know that Competition & Markets Authority issues are complicating things for potential buyer Walstead/Wyndeham, it could also have involved the CMA having the necessary 40 days to come to a decision – after all, the pre-pack that has resulted in the current situation didn’t take place until the end of April.

It’s hard to say whether we are where we are today because of folly or ego. Perhaps there's an element of both. 

But among the key learnings to emerge from the whole debacle is an old adage: make decisions and act on them while you still have a choice about doing so.

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