Agent Provocateur co-founder Joe Corre has branded the £30m sale of the lingerie retailer “a scandal on many levels”.
Corre, the son of iconic fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, said his brand was “dropped like a pair of dirty knickers”.
Agent Provocateur was put up for sale by 3i in January. Last week, administrators Alix Partners sold the struggling retailer to Four Holdings, a company part-owned by Sports Direct’s billionaire owner Mike Ashley.
“The deal is a scandal on many levels,” Corre told City A.M. “It is a scandal primarily because there was a higher bidder on the table [Quadro Capital reportedly offered £35m for the business] who would’ve saved a majority of the jobs and the international presence of the brand.”
Corre warned the sale will lead to losses for Agent Provocateur's suppliers in addition to job cuts.
“Mike Ashley has already confirmed he’s closing down the entire international side of the business. He’s going to buy the stock and he’s going to keep a few stores in the UK running – everything else is going. None of the creditors will be paid which means the factories will close which means the jobs will be lost. The taxman is not going to get paid either, it’s a disaster.”
The Agent Provocateur co-founder claimed that two years ago, the struggling retailer was valued at £280m by Rothschild and £250m by Goldman Sachs.
“Two years later, they’re chopping it up and selling it for chicken feed. Something’s gone drastically wrong. They had a brand with international recognition and they’ve managed to mess it up so badly,” he said.
Corre added that Mike Ashley owning the brand “is a joke” but the “real villains are 3i and AlixPartners” for their involvement in the pre-pack arrangement.
“These pre-pack arrangements are like a ‘get out’ clause for these irresponsible people that treat companies like casino chips,” Corre said.
Corre set up Agent Provocateur in 1994 with then wife Serena Rees. In 2007, 3i bought a stake in the business for £60m. Corre sold his remaining shares in the business in 2009.