Sports Direct makes surprise bid for Patisserie Valerie
Mike Ashley's Sports Direct has made a surprise bid for collapsed cafe chain Patisserie Valerie. The group confirmed the move in a brief statement issued to the stock market this evening.
The company issued a one-line statement saying simply: "Sports Direct International plc confirms that it has made an offer to acquire the business comprising the trade and assets of Patisserie Holdings plc and its group companies out of administration."
Patisserie Valerie collapsed after a £40m black hole was found in its accounts which was a result of "potentially fraudulent" activities. Its finance director Chris Marsh was arrested and bailed last October.
The chain's chairman, the entrepreneur Luke Johnson, attempted to save Patisserie Valerie with a sizeable loan but KPMG was appointed as administrators last month and 71 of its nearly 200 stores and concessions were closed, including the original cafe on London's Old Compton Street.
Ashley is believed to be interested in the chain as it could open outlets in his House of Fraser department stores, which he rescued from administration last August. It had already begun to open outlets with Debenhams, in which Ashley owns an almost 30% stake, however these were closed by the administrator.
The retail tycoon has been hoovering up distressed brands having acquired House of Fraser and Evans Cycles. He recently missed out in the race to acquire HMV to Canada's Sunrise Records.
It is believed Ashley is not the only bidder in the frame for Patisserie Holdings, which is parent of the Patisserie Valerie, Druckers, Vienna Patisserie, Philpotts, Baker & Spice and Flour Power City brands. Caffè Nero, Leon and Costa Coffee are also said to be interested in buying some of its stores.