Sports Direct's Mike Ashley steps in for eleventh hour BHS chats

 
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The Sports Direct boss recently told MPs that "100 per cent [he] wanted to buy BHS" (Source: Getty)

Sports Direct's Mike Ashley is trying to reopen talks to save BHS from liquidation.

A source told City A.M. that Ashley had written to the administrators in a bid to reopen a dialogue in a move that could save a number of stores along with the BHS name.

City A.M. also understands that the administrators will be writing to Sports Direct tomorrow to invite Ashley to make a formal offer.

The Sports Direct boss is also due to provide evidence to two select committees currently running parliamentary inquires into the collapse of BHS. In a hearing last week relating to a separate inquiry into working practices at Sports Direct, Ashley remarked: "100 per cent I wanted to buy BHS."

Earlier this month, BHS' administrators Duff & Phelps announced that the troubled retailer would need to be wound up, as it had been unable to find a suitable buyer for the business.

Read more: Why pension promises are no longer fit for purpose

The Work and Pensions select committee has been examining what the fall of BHS means for pensions regulation in the UK, while the Business, Innovation and Skills committee has been taking a closer look at the £1 sale of BHS to Retail Acquisitions, which took place last year.

Arcadia boss Sir Philip Green has been scheduled to give evidence to the committees on Wednesday. However, the business tycoon yesterday called on chair of the Work and Pensions select committee to step down from his role, claiming that Frank Field had a "bias" against him.

Writing in the Observer, shadow chancellor John McDonnell remarked that Green should be stripped of his knighthood if he refused to go before parliament to explain his side of the story.

The Sunday Times reported this weekend that, at the time the BHS sale was being discussed, a contract was drawn up that would have given Chappell the right of first refusal to other parts of the Arcadia business, excluding the Topshop and Topman brands, should they have been put up for sale.

A spokesperson for the Arcadia Group said: "There were highly conditional discussions on this point but it was never part of the agreement when BHS was sold to Retail Acquisitions."

Last week, the committees took evidence from some of BHS' most recent executive team members, including Retail Acquisitions' largest shareholder Dominic Chappell and ex-chief executive Darren Topp.

Read more: Could a focus on customer experience have saved BHS?

Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph has reported that the Insolvency Service has already compiled 200,000 pages of evidence related to the collapse of the retailer and, should it find that any director has engaged in unfit conduct, they could be struck off for between two and 15 years.

As a general rule, such reports are confidential and are not published in the public domain.

An Insolvency Service spokesperson said: "Once the investigation is completed, government will consider what detail it is appropriate to publish having full regard to any legal restrictions on publication, and also the legitimate public interest in the cause of the BHS failure."

Read more: The BHS collapse shows the retail world is yet to get it right online

BHS plunged into administration in April, putting 11,000 jobs on the line and creating problems for how the £571m blackhole in its pension scheme would be dealt with. The fiasco also later pushed the manufacturer of Pretty Polly tights into administration as well.

BHS: What you need to know

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