Care homes giant Four Seasons is poised to collapse into administration, raising fears for thousands of elderly residents — including those living at more than a dozen homes across Northern Ireland.
Four Seasons is one of the largest care home providers in Northern Ireland and across the UK.
The company is set to appoint corporate undertakers at Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) to carry out the process following an aborted sale attempt.
Four Seasons houses 22,000 elderly residents across 322 homes, although the firm insists that operations will be unaffected by the move.
The collapse will be the biggest care homes failure since Southern Cross went bust in 2011.
Late last year, US hedge fund H2 Capital Partners, which effectively controls Four Seasons, ordered a sale of the crisis-hit company, which is struggling under a £525 million debt mountain. The bulk of the debt is held by H2, which is run by Spencer Haber.
Only weeks ago, Four Seasons insisted that it had “sufficient operating liquidity” to be able to complete the sale process.
A&M will now attempt to sell the group out of administration.
The failure of Four Seasons will cap a sorry saga for the group, which is still nominally owned by Guy Hands’ private equity vehicle Terra Firma.
Terra Firma bought Four Seasons for £825 million in 2012 and has been forced to stomach a £450 million writedown on its investment.
There have been acute worries over Four Seasons’ financial performance and debt pile for several years.
It has been stung by a cut in local authority fees, rising costs and the introduction of the national living wage, and the group has continuously warned over its long-term stability.