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Derek Cook 'to take control of Virgin Cars'

Virgin has not yet commented in detail on a Sunday Times story of 25 January that Motor Solutions' Derek Cook is to take over the loss-making Virgin Cars operation. But the report confirms rumours circulating earlier in the month.

Derek Cook, formerly of the quoted DC Cook plc group that went into liquidation, has subsequently built up Motor Solutions as a supplier of discounted new cars in substantial volumes to cardholders of the MAKRO cash-and-carry chain in the UK.

The transfer of Virgin Cars to Derek Cook's control, reportedly with details still under negotiation, marks the end of a high-profile attempt to lend Virgin's brand to build a national online, telephone and from last year, physical retail brand for new and nearly-new cars. Founder of the business Ian Lancaster and Virgin's Richard Branson were prominent in lobbying the European Commission to grant new rights for retailers such as Virgin Cars to apply for direct supply from manufacturers. In the event, Virgin's multi-brand showroom opened in Manchester did not gain any manufacturer franchises, though Virgin did negotiate a special deal with MG Rover, to the annoyance of its dealers.

Virgin Cars 2001 accounts revealed losses of over £13m, and it is not thought to have achieved the profitability Ian Lancaster forecast for 2003, but instead, required financial support from Virgin Group. Virgin Cars' sales, which now include a motorcycle retail operation Virgin Bikes, are reported to be in excess of £22m.

- Virgin Cars could only confirm today that "As previously reported in the press, Virgin Cars is in discussions with potential investors to help accelerate its development. Virgin Cars launched its first car department store in Manchester last year when plans were announced to develop similar sites across the country. While discussions with potential investors are in progress we are unable to provide any further comment."

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