Luxury lingerie chain Agent Provocateur may be passed into the hands of its lenders as its private equity owner, 3i, struggles to find a buyer for the business.
3i is understood to be working hard to find a buyer, which is willing to pay more than the £30m value of Agent Provocateur's debts, but offers so far have been beneath that amount, according to a report in The Sunday Times.
The private equity firm acquired a controlling stake in the business for £60m 10 years ago from its co-founder Joe Corré, the son of fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood.
Earlier this month it called in restructuring experts Alix Partners to line the business up for a possible sale after accounting irregularities were discovered last year. At that point 3i had to write down the value of the business by £39m and injected a further £4m in cash into it.
According to The Sunday Times, its lender Barclays has now been put on alert and is preparing to seize control of the business. Some potential buyers are circling the business it is believed, including Alteri Investments and Endless and retail tycoon Theo Paphitis, owner of the Boux Avenue chain, has also been sounded out.
It is not anticipated the business would fall into administration if Barclays does take control as it is expected it would be sold quickly, albeit for a knock-down price.