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Mike Ashley makes last-ditch attempt to buy BHS

Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley has launched a final attempt to buy a number of BHS stores and the right to use its name, weeks after administrators announced their intention to wind the business down.

Mike Ashley

Mike Ashley

The sportswear retailer tried to buy BHS just before it collapsed into administration at the end of April, and again during a subsequent auction. However, administrators from Duff & Phelps failed to secure the deal they wanted, and on June 2 announced the business would be liquidated.

Ashley wrote to Duff & Phelps on Friday evening asking to reopen the talks. He is understood to be interested in buying up to 80 of BHS’s 161 stores. 

A spokesman for Duff & Phelps confirmed it had received the letter and said it would reply today to request a formal offer outlining Sports Direct’s plans.

Ashley has also agreed to give written evidence to the work and pensions select committee of his attempts to save BHS. The committee is holding a joint inquiry into the sale and subsequent collapse of BHS with its business, innovation and skills (BIS) counterpart.

Last week, Dominic Chappell, majority shareholder of Retail Acquisitions, which owned BHS at the time of its collapse, told the inquiry that previous owner Sir Philip Green blocked Ashley’s attempt to save the chain from liquidation at the eleventh hour.

Green, who is facing calls to be stripped of his knighthood, is due to appear before the two committees later this week.

However, Green is threatening to pull out and has called for work and pensions committee chair Frank Field to step down, accusing him of leading a process that lacked “even the pretence of fairness and objectivity”.

Meanwhile, The Telegraph has reported that the government intends to publish the Insolvency Service’s investigation into the collapse.

Such reports are currently confidential, but it is understood the Insolvency Service is in discussions with lawyers about whether it can make an exception on the basis that it is in the public interest.

BIS select committee chairman Ian Wright is among those calling for publication of the BHS report.

A spokesman for the Insolvency Service told The Telegraph: “The government will consider what detail it is appropriate to publish, having full regard to any legal restrictions on publication.”

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