Retail tycoon Mike Ashley has pulled his bid for scandal-hit Patisserie Valerie, lashing out with claims the cafe chain’s administrators withheld vital information.
Ashley’s Sports Direct said today it was “reluctantly” withdrawing its bid to lift the struggling firm out of administration, just two days after the offer was tabled.
Administrator KPMG had told Ashley to return to the drawing board, dismissing his £15m bid as up to £2m wide of the mark.
Sports Direct’s deputy finance chief Chris Wooton wrote to the Big Four accountancy firm, complaining it had restricted his access to information – forcing the company to pull out of the process.
“[Sports Direct] has reluctantly decided to withdraw its offer for the businesses, as it is not able to match an offer of £18m+ without having access to any due diligence, financial information or management meetings,” Wooton said in a letter seen by the Financial Times.
Wooton said Patisserie Valerie’s public finances were “at best unreliable”, and claimed they had put Sports Direct at a disadvantage.
However, City A.M. understands that Ashley was given access to the same information as all other bidders.
A decision on the offers, which aim to save all of the cafe’s stores, is expected later this week.
The pastrymaker collapsed in January, after owner Patisserie Holdings was unable to engineer a rescue package in the torrid aftermath of an accounting scandal that rocked the City.
Finance chief Chris Marsh was arrested in October as the Serious Fraud Office looked into a £40m black hole in Patisserie Valerie’s accounts. He was released on bail while an investigation continues.
Ashley is not the first bidder to complain at the information on offer from the administrators. Earlier this month, restaurateur David Scott’s bid to save at least half of the company’s cafes was blocked by KPMG after it allegedly refused to share private information prepared for the bidders, according to reports.
The Sports Direct boss made a name for himself after riding to the rescue of high street firms like Evans Cycles.
Ashley, who also owns a large minority holding in Debenhams, bought House of Fraser for £90m last year, promising to keep open as many of its department stores as possible.