British Bookshops & Stationers’ new owners have drafted in former WHSmith director John Simpson to return the business to profitability.

The 36-store retailer was sold by Irish retailer Eason for an undisclosed sum to private equity group Endless on Monday. Endless also owns discount book retailer The Works, which it bought out of administration a year ago.

Simpson has been hired as chief executive. Most recently he was European managing director of TV shopping channel The Jewellery Channel and before that he was at gifts retailer Past Times. British Bookshops managing director Michael Shakespeare left the business last week.

Simpson said that although books are a difficult area of retail he believes that the business had been  neglected in the past and had real potential. He said: “The new management will be working with the existing management of the business to continue to trade the business in its current form while undertaking a detailed review of all areas with the objective of returning the business to profit.”

He said there are no plans to shut stores or to open any new ones until the business has been stabilised. He also said that the rest of the management will stay in place.     

Endless said that there were no plans to rebrand the stores and that the business would run separately from The Works. 

“The new management and shareholders believe this acquisition is an extremely positive development for British Bookshops, which now has the backing and support of a new owner who plans to invest significantly in the business going forward,” added Simpson. He said it also wants look to expand its presence online.

Eason bought British Bookshops in 2004 in a deal reported to be worth about £30m.