The sale of Agent Provocateur to Mike Ashley has been described as “a disgrace to British business” by Joe Corré, who co-founded the lingerie retail chain. According to The Guardian, Corré also warned that Ashley and 3i, the private equity fund that has sold the brand, will “face a phenomenal swath of litigation actions” over the deal.
Agent Provocateur has 11 shops in the UK. It was founded in 1994 by Corré (the son of Dame Vivienne Westwood) and his former wife Serena Rees and 3i acquired its stake in the business in 2007. Corré left the business in 2009, when he also sold his remaining shares.
Ashley reportedly bought the Agent Provocateur business for around £30m in a pre-pack administration deal through Four Holdings. Pre-packs allow business owners to instigate insolvency proceedings and sell the assets of a firm to a new owner.
The Guardian quoted Corré as saying: “The pre-pack arrangement between 3i and Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct is a disgrace to British business up there with Sir Philip Green’s shocking behaviour over BHS. If this preposterous deal goes ahead with Mike Ashley, 3i and their partners are going to face a phenomenal swath of litigation actions. 3i’s reputation is going to be left in tatters. I don’t think they will ever recover from this. This is a phenomenal stitch-up. Just how 3i have decided the right business model is to deliberately road crash the business to wipe out anything owed to creditors or the taxman is quite unbelievable, when a higher offer on the table avoids them taking such action. This is bad practice at its worst.”