Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley is understood to be in discussions to buy the freeholds of several House of Fraser stores.
Ashley has been in negotiations with landlords since buying House of Fraser in a pre-pack administration deal on 10 August.
Drapers understands that Ashley has proposed buying the stores only weeks after the entrepreneur railed against “greedy” landlords during negotiations over the fate of the department chain’s 59 stores.
Four stores – in Hull, Swindon, Edinburgh and Exeter – are set to close between now and the end of January next year. The HoF in Bath is also anticipated to shut.
One property expert predicted Ashley would target “the better performers” in the HoF portfolio if he presses ahead with any freehold plans.
He said: “There’s no point buying a poor performer. A number of stores would have a higher alternative use value than as a HoF. If HoF doesn’t need all the space, then it would make sense to buy them and do the downsize and take the profit.”
One agent for several HoF landlords said: “At the moment everything is in play and [the stores] are very much up for grabs.
“[Ashley] has agreed deals with a number of landlords for no rent, or minimal rent agreements.”
However, Drapers understands that some landlords are seeking to draw up their own proposals for the HoF estate during any year-long licence deals that Sports Direct may have taken on their stores, which could lead to the retailer being evicted when the terms expire.
One agent said: “Landlords are at the minute thinking, ‘what other solutions do we have?’ The company is in administration and the landlords have to make tough decisions on what their options are – for example, to break up units.
“The interesting conflict will be [if Sports Direct wishes to stay in the HoF stores for longer and landlords say, ‘No, you’re out.’ Those might be really good locations.”
Sports Direct has been contacted for comment.