Sports Direct's owner nets Agent Provocateur takeover

James Sillars, Business Reporter

The upmarket underwear brand, Agent Provocateur, has been bought out of administration by Mike Ashley - the retail tycoon behind Sports Direct.

Sky News reported earlier this week how he had become the front-runner to land the struggling lingerie chain after talks involving another bidder broke down.

Mr Ashley's investment vehicle, Four Holdings, bagged the business in a so-called pre-pack administration - meaning he was able to pick out the parts of Agent Provocateur that he wanted.

The retailer employs 600 staff and has 10 UK stores.

Sky News has asked Four to indicate how many jobs have been retained but is yet to receive an answer. A co-founder of the chain raised fears that many would lose their jobs in what proved an angry response to the sale.

It is also not clear how much the billionaire's firm, in which Sports Direct has a 25% stake, has paid though it is understood to be in the region of £25m.

Four's chief executive, Charles Perez, said: "We are delighted to welcome Agent Provocateur into the Four Holdings business.

"The global status of this brand provides significant opportunities and we are excited to begin working to further
grow the brand equity."

Sports Direct said: "We are fully supportive of this acquisition."

Agent Provocateur had been struggling financially.

3i said last year that the brand had been "impacted by declining luxury spend in a number of its key markets", the effect of which had been exacerbated by "the inconsistent execution of its recent store expansion programme and the discovery of accounting issues".‎

AlixPartners said on Thursday: "We would like to thank all the staff and stakeholders for their support during this process and we wish the business and its new owners all the best for future."

But it later emerged there could be a sting in the tail.

Joe Corre, who co-founded Agent Provacateur, warned of possible legal action against 3i and claimed a higher offer had been rejected.

He said: "Mike Ashley's Sports Direct, who are lined up to pick at a carcass, plan to keep the brand and the stock and nothing much else.

"The pre-pack arrangement between 3i and Mike Ashley's Sports Direct is a disgrace to British business up there with Sir Philip Green's shocking behaviour over BHS."

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