Agent Provocateur sold to Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley

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Agent Provocateur was bought by Four Holdings earlier this week in a deal reported to be worth around £25 – £30 million.

Four Holdings is the parent company of Four Marketing, an agency that oversees the marketing of several fashion brands including Orla Kiely, Guess, and 7 for All Mankind. The sportswear business, Sports Direct, owned by Mike Ashley, has a 25% stake in Four Marketing.

Ashley also acquired an 11% stake in French Connection earlier this year and owns the Flannels chain of designer stores.

Agent Provocateur was put up for sale earlier this year by private equity group 3i, blaming accounting issues, a poorly-executed store expansion programme, and a slowdown in spending in luxury markets for a loss in profits. 3i previously took control of the firm in 2007 for an investment thought to be around £48 million. Profits had fallen by over 20% in the 2014-2015 financial year.

The company was sold in a “pre-pack” deal after it entered administration, which allowed it to write off debts before being sold. Fears have been raised about the future of over 600 employees currently working for the brand in the UK.

Chief executive of Four Holdings, Charles Perez, said: “We are delighted to welcome Agent Provocateur into 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.”

Agent Provocateur was founded in 1994 by Joe Corre, son of Vivienne Westwood and former Sex Pistols manager, Malcolm McLaren. The company has 11 stores in 29 countries. Corre left the company in 2009 and has slammed the deal as being “preposterous” and “the worst possible outcome”.