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Mike Ashley makes move for LK Bennett

Lauretta Roberts
17 March 2019

British retail's most prolific deal Mike Ashley has reportedly made an indicative offer for stricken premium fashion and footwear chain LK Bennett.

According to the Financial Times, the billionaire owner of Sports Direct, submitted his bid last week however neither Sports Direct nor LK Bennett's administrator EY would confirm the matter.

LK Bennett was placed into administration on 7 March placing the future of 41 stores and more than 400 staff in jeopardy. Five stores and 55 jobs were lost immediately and now EY is on the hunt for a buyer for the remaining business.

Ashley's interest came at the same time as he took another tilt at ailing department store Debenhams. Having previously expressed a wish to be installed as a director of the business, he made a further offer last week offering a £150m interest-free loan on the understanding he could up his stake from just under 30% to 35% without being obliged to make an offer for the full business (in a move known as a "whitewash").

Should Ashley not be permitted to up his stake (without a whitewash agreed by shareholders anyone owning more than 30% of a plc is obliged to make an offer for the whole business) then the loan would need to bear interest, Ashley has said.

Ashley has also said that should he be installed as CEO at Debenhams, he would step down as CEO of Sports Direct but retain his 61% stake.

The retail tycoon is making hay while the high street suffers and purchases in the past year include House of Fraser, Evans Cycles and Sofa.com. He has also attempted, and failed, to buy Patisserie Valerie and HMV.

LK Bennett could be of interest as he seeks more premium fashion brands to introduce into House of Fraser stores, which he has promised to transform into the "Harrods of the High Street".

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