Agent Provocateur has been bought by sportswear tycoon Mike Ashley in a £31m controversial 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. Whilst 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.
The deal has prompted a vehement reaction from Agent Provocateur’s founder Joe Corré who likened it to selling the business “for chicken feed to bottom feeders”. Mr Corré, the son of Dame Vivienne Westwood and punk impresario Malcolm McLaren, slammed the deal as a “scandal, a catastrophe, the worst possible outcome…what’s next, Agent Provocateur tracksuits?”
Mr Ashley has 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.
However, the deal was funded by Sports Direct which paid £35m two years ago for a 25pc stake in Four Marketing, which distributes brands including Orla Kiely and 7 For All Mankind jeans.
Commenting on the acquisition, Charles Perez, CEO of the Four Holdings Group, said yesterday: “We are delighted to welcome Agent Provocateur in to the Four Holdings business. “The global status of this brand provides significant opportunities and we are excited to begin working to further grow the brand equity.”