Mike Ashley has entered the race to acquire Agent Provocateur with a reported £27.5m bid for the lingerie retailer.
His sportswear firm Sports Direct is understood to be among the bidders for the label, joined by French womenswear brand Etam and private equity firms including Lion Capital and Terra Firma Capital Partners, The Times reported.
Agent Provocateur, which was established in 1994 by Dame Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm Maclaren’s son Joe Corré and his former wife Serena Rees, is being sold by private equity firm 3i. 3i has owned the business for more than 10 years and is expected to be seeking around £30m to cover the firm’s liabilities.
Ashley plans to retain Agent Provocateur’s 11 stores and sell the brand in his USC stores in a bid to move it more upmarket, the newspaper said. Agent Provocateur also has around 100 concessions in 13 countries, including at Harrods and Selfridges in London, Manchester and Birmingham in the UK.
3i is expected to make a decision on a preferred bidder in conjunction with its advisers at Rothschild shortly.
3i declined to comment and Sports Direct has not yet responded to Drapers’ request for comment.