LONDON, United Kingdom — Mike Ashley, founder of UK sneaker seller Sports Direct International Plc, is backing a venture that agreed to buy collapsed British lingerie brand Agent Provocateur for an undisclosed price.
Four Holdings, an investor group in which Ashley’s Sports Direct holds a stake, is buying Agent Provocateur from private-equity firm 3i Group Plc, which has struggled to turn around the maker of bras and camisoles since buying a majority stake in it a decade ago in a deal that valued the company at 60 million pounds ($74 million).
Agent Provocateur has been placed under administration, a process similar to bankruptcy reorganisation, and will be sold to the Ashley-backed group, consulting firm Alix Partners said in a statement Thursday. Alix is managing the pre-arranged process.
At Sports Direct, Ashley has been admonished by U.K. lawmakers for working conditions at the retailer’s warehouses, while shareholders have expressed concerns about governance.
In a financial update last month, 3i Chief Executive Officer Simon Borrows said Agent Provocateur experienced “subdued December trading.” The firm said last year that the brand was struggling with softness in spending on luxury goods. Agent Provocateur Chairman Chris Woodhouse stepped down in December.
3i previously tried to sell the lingerie brand in 2014, but that process bogged down when no buyer was found. Agent Provocateur was founded in 1994 by Joe Corre, the son of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, and businesswoman Serena Rees.
By David Hellier and Sam Chambers; editors: Jacqueline Simmons, Eric Pfanner and Thomas Mulier.