Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley buys lingerie brand Agent Provocateur

Fri, 03 Mar 2017 | BUSINESS SALE

Mike Ashley, the owner of Sports Direct, has acquired collapsed lingerie firm Agent Provocateur in a controversial deal reported to be worth around £31 million.

Private equity group 3i, which acquired the struggling retail chain in 2007, sold it to Four Holdings, an investment vehicle owned by Ashley.

Agent Provocateur has 10 stores in the UK, employing around 600 people. It was sold via a pre-pack administration, where the buyer acquires the assets of the company but not its liabilities.

The deal has proved controversial, with Agent Provocateur co-founder Joe Corre, the son of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, accusing 3i of a “spectacular disaster”.

“It is the worst possible outcome and something 3i will never be able to recover from. 3i's business model is to find growing companies and invest in them, before selling them,” Corre, who founded Agent Provocateur with his ex-wife Serena Rees in 1994, said.

"But they have had a spectacular disaster. It's due to their arrogance in thinking they know what they are doing."

Ashley’s move seems likely to be part of a plan to head into upmarket fashion retail. He already has an 11 per cent stake in French chain French Connection and late last year he sold the rights to iconic British sportswear brand Dunlop to a Japanese tyre firm.

It was reported that the Dunlop sale happened because Sports Direct had complaints from some of its higher-end supplier, like Nike and Adidas, that their products were being sold alongside goods from ‘lower quality' brands like Dunlop and Slazenger.

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