Private equity firm 3i invites bids for company, which has been hit by lacklustre sales and accounting issues
The Agent Provocateur store in London’s Soho.
The Agent Provocateur store in London’s Soho. It is thought five bidders have tabled bids for the brand. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian
Lingerie brand Agent Provocateur could be headed for administration after the appointment of restructuring firm AlixPartners to lead a sale process.
Private equity firm 3i has been exploring options for the future of the company – founded by the son of designer Vivienne Westwood, Joe Corré, and his ex wife Serena Rees in 1994 – since late last year.
The brand has been hit by lacklustre sales and accounting issues. Last November, 3i wrote down the value of its 80% stake by £39m – the private equity firm’s largest writedown.
Bids for the company, which 3i previously tried to sell nearly three years ago for as much as £250m, were tabled late last week with about five bidders thought to include Lion Capital, the former private equity owner of La Senza and American Apparel, and Alteri. Advisers were looking for sums in excess of the £30m Agent Provocateur owes to its lenders.
Sources close to the negotiations said Agent Provocateur was a strong brand, but had over-expanded into department store concessions and stores, and a pre-pack administration would enable a potential buyer to acquire the business without some of its liabilities.
In April last year, AlixPartners put upmarket tailor Austin Reed into administration soon after it was appointed to explore opportunities for the future of the business.
It is thought that 3i is looking to finalise a deal prior to the deadline for rent and rate payments due in late February/early March.