Alix Partners were appointed as administrators of the company today and immediately sold it to Four Holdings, which is 25 per cent owned by Sports Direct.
Ashley fought off private equity firm Lion Capital to secure the deal, and it is thought he paid between £25m and £30m to buy the business, which was previously owned by private equity firm 3i.
The business was put on sale at in January by its owner 3i, and there were 12 potential buyers. 3i was looking for offers that exceeded Agent Provocateur's £30m debt, and sources close to the deal told City A.M. that several of the potential buyers had met this condition.
The move from Ashley comes as the he seeks to shake off Sports Direct's "pile it high, sell it cheap" image. Last year, at the company's annual general meeting, Ashley said he wanted to make Sports Direct the "Selfridges of sport" so that he could attract more well-heeled brands such as Nike and Adidas into his stores.
As part of this shake-up, Sports Direct snapped up an 11 per cent share in embattled retailer French Connection, a move that would allow Ashley to disrupt any buy-out bid for the chain.
Terra Firma boss Guy Hands considered taking on the struggling lingerie retailer, he confirmed to City A.M. over the weekend.
“Agent Provocateur is a totally iconic British brand. Obviously, retailing is something [vice chairman] Justin [King] has extraordinary experience in. So, we wouldn’t deny we had a look at it,” he said.
Agent Provocateur declined to comment.