SPORTS Direct boss Mike Ashley is “interested” in taking over Sir Philip Green’s troubled Topshop empire, when it is set to collapse within days.
The businessman is considering acquiring the Arcadia group’s brands – just two years after insisting he wouldn’t buy Arcadia “for a pound”.
It comes after MPs learned in 2016 that Sir Philip had personally blocked a deal that could have saved the BHS department chain as he had a bitter grudge against Mr Ashley.
The Arcadia group – which owns Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins – is preparing to appoint directors next week with 13,000 jobs at risk, Sky News reports.
Shortly before 4 p.m. ITV editor-in-chief Joel Hills tweeted, “I just hung up with Mike Ashley who told me he was interested in a deal to take over Arcadia.
“He says he’s interested in all brands.”
Mr Ashley told The Times last year he would not even buy Sir Philip’s Arcadia Group “for a pound”, dismissing speculation that he was considering an acquisition of the group of companies.
He said, “Let me be perfectly clear. I wouldn’t buy any part of Arcadia with Leonard Green or directly for a pound.
“I am not getting involved in this retirement deficit in Arcadia for reasons of reputation. It’s not for me. ”
The Newcastle United owner added: “I don’t know where the story came from – as far as I know Philip is posting it that I’m going to buy (Arcadia Group) – but I’m not interested. “
It comes after billionaire Ashley reportedly attempted to acquire besieged Debenhams this year as it emerged that the street giant faced financial ruin.
RetailGazette reports that Mr Ashley has abandoned the Debenhams sale after retreating from the ‘impossible’ asking price of £ 300million set by the retailer’s advisers.
Premier League bosses also issued a startling statement in September, berating Mr Ashley for deliberately misleading Newcastle United fans amid a failed Saudi takeover.
They insisted Mr Ashley was fundamentally and factually wrong in trying to blame Prem chief executive Richard Masters for the collapse of the £ 300million deal.
The Sports Direct boss is said to be worth £ 2.3 billion and has a stunning portfolio of properties including a 33-bedroom London home, holiday homes in Spain, as well as a sprawling mansion in Miami.
It comes as a figure in the retail industry has said Arcadia’s collapse has become inevitable after talks with lenders failed over a £ 30million emergency loan.
The appointment of directors could take place as early as Monday, although someone familiar with the situation has reportedly said the plan is not yet finalized and could be delayed.
Earlier this year, Arcadia warned it could close 100 of its stores due to coronavirus.
It wasn’t until last year that Mr. Green’s retail empire was saved from the brink of collapse after his wife agreed to bail him out of his financial woes.
The move saw Arcadia close 48 stores and cut 1,000 jobs.
Arcadia has more than 500 stores in the UK, with the majority in England currently closed due to current coronavirus restrictions.
Sir Philip Green bought the high street band in 2002 for £ 850million.
Three years later, he paid one of the biggest dividends ever – £ 1.2bn – to his wife and registered owner, Lady Tina Green.
But he has faced stiff criticism for selling the chain of BHS departments in 2015 for just £ 1 to Dominic Chappell, who was recently jailed for tax evasion.
The former High Street King was then blasted after BHS went missing in 2015 for a £ 571million black hole.
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Following the latest reports, an Arcadia spokesperson told The Sun: “We are aware of recent media speculation about the future of Arcadia.
“The forced closure of our stores for extended periods of time due to the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on trade in our activities.
“As a result, Arcadia’s boards of directors have worked on a number of contingency options to secure the future of the Group’s brands.
“Brands continue to trade and our stores will reopen in England and the Republic of Ireland as soon as government COVID-19 restrictions are lifted next week. ”