Upmarket lingerie brand Agent Provocateur has been bought by sportswear tycoon Mike Ashley in a £31m (€36m) controversial pre-pack deal.
It is understood that the billionaire behind Sports Direct has bought the lingerie firm's entire UK business, meaning that the majority of UK jobs and 11 stores will be saved. However, while Mr Ashley has bought the global branding rights to the luxury lingerie business, he is not taking on Agent Provocateur's 100 international outlets across 200 countries. Mr Ashley bought the business through brand marketing agency Four Marketing, which has experience with upmarket fashion brands, and is the biggest supplier to the tycoon's other upmarket fashion business, Flannels.
In 2015 Sports Direct paid £35m for a 25pc stake in London-based brand fashion agency Four Marketing, which distributes brands including Orla Kiely and 7 For All Mankind jeans.
It is understood Sports Direct and private equity house Lion Capital became embroiled in a bidding war as both attempted to get their hands on one of the high street's glamour names.
Agent Provocateur, whose products include a £1,995 kimono, is one of several well-known retailers that have recently run into trouble. Concern is growing for the future of Jones the Bootmaker after its owners put the chain up for sale. It is understood a possible administration is being explored, a move that would threaten thousands of jobs at its 170 stores.
Last year was a bloody one for the UK retail industry with the collapse of BHS, Austin Reed, My Local, and Staples.