Boohoo faces a fight to stay in fashion

His task now is to help Boohoo move on, with Kamani still in the chairman’s seat. Employees say the chief executive works with Kamani’s support. Keri Devine, general counsel at the firm, told Levitt that they “get on well and [John] has his own ways of standing up to him”.

A Boohoo spokesman says: “Carol and Mahmud were only prepared to get involved with somebody they had massive respect for.

“When they secured John’s services they had the confidence that this business was going to go to the next level and go to the next level in the right way.”

At Primark, which has faced its own supply chain scandals, Lyttle cut ties with Leicester suppliers. Boohoo has said it is committed to its UK factories, the majority of which are in Leicester, although Lyttle told analysts this month that global expansion will mean a broader supplier base.

Boohoo’s international ambitions underscore how far it has travelled already.

Kamani and Kane set up the business in 2006 after acting as middlemen between factories and street brands including New Look and Primark. The pair wanted to sell direct instead, online. They tapped their connections in the rag trade to react to fashion trends quicker than rivals.

The fast-fashion firm was a family business from the start. Kamani’s siblings were all early directors of Boohoo, then called Wasabi Frog, as well as co-owners of a sprawling property empire.

A complex web of directorships has led to suggestions from industry observers that the Kamanis covertly own or control many of the factories in Leicester, something which the company denies.

“I can be absolutely categorical that nobody in Boohoo owns any part of any manufacturer. I can be absolutely clear on that,” says Lyttle, referring to Boohoo employees but not the extended Kamani family.

Kamani’s relatives, including his three siblings, have at least 123 directorships between them. Two years ago, a research analyst in the US counted more than 50 companies with co-directors and owners that either shared the same address with Boohoo’s headquarters in Manchester or were located at a nearby shared office space owned by Kamani’s brother Jalaludin.

“Every time someone gets too close, boom, they just change the business name,” says one former employee. “Or [they] get someone else that they know to register as a director of the company and it just becomes a show within a show within a show, and no one can ever catch up.”

Kamani meanwhile continues to avoid facing questions himself.

“Running a business is like an ever-changing jigsaw,” he once wrote. “You can never complete it because the pieces are always changing. Just when you think it’s nearly finished somebody picks it’s up and gives it a big shake.”

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