BLACKTIE, the tuxedo-hire chain owned by 'Dragons' Den' star Niall O'Farrell has become the latest casualty of the recession.
Staff at 11 Blacktie shops across the country have been told that the company will go into liquidation at the end of next week.
January has been a bleak month for the retail trade, despite successful Christmas trading. Blacktie is just the latest chain in crisis.
Music giant HMV has gone into receivership in Ireland and into administration in the UK.
The high profile Korkys shoe shop on Grafton Street in Dublin closed earlier this month, after a long-running rent dispute.
Blacktie has confirmed that it's going to seek liquidation at a meeting next week. The company closed its Cork branch late last year.
The shops in Dublin, Limerick and Waterford will trade as normal pending the appointment of a liquidator.
It is hoped that a buyer will be found, Blacktie said.
Whether that happens will ultimately be a decision taken by whoever is appointed as liquidator.
They will have the final say in whether the best way to get money back for creditors is to try to sell Blacktie as a going concern, or shut the chain and sell off its assets.
Mr O'Farrell stepped down after four years as a judge on the long-running RTE 'Dragons' Den' series to focus on his investments, including restructuring Blacktie, last October.
Yesterday he told his staff of the decision to seek a liquidator, which was made after consulting with the company's bankers.
He blamed a combination of market and economic factors.
Among these are a declining market for tux hire, competition from low-cost retailers, as well as high commercial rates and rising utility bills, according to the Blacktie statement.
A creditors' meeting will be held on Friday, February 1 at the Spawell Leisure Complex in Templeogue in Dublin. Those who are owed money will be asked to back liquidation.
Mr O'Farrell expressed regret over his decision to close.
"I spent most of my career establishing and developing Blacktie, and have done all I could to bolster its prospects," he said.
He had not taken a salary from the business for four years and had invested "substantial" personal resources, he said.
He paid tribute to company staff, and said he would be available to answer any queries they have.