Mike Ashley bids to add Patisserie Valerie cakes to UK retail empire

LONDON: British retail tycoon Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct has offered to buy cafe chain owner Patisserie Holdings out of administration to enlarge an empire stretching from department stores and sofa shops to lingerie.
Sports Direct’s statement on Friday gave no details of its offer to buy the owner of cake specialist Patisserie Valerie, which was plunged into crisis in October after it uncovered accounting irregularities.
Sports Direct was not immediately available to comment on its proposal, while Patisserie Holdings’ administrators, KPMG, declined to comment on the offer.
Ashley, who also owns English Premier League soccer club Newcastle United, made his name building budget chain Sports Direct into Britain’s biggest sporting goods retailer.
He has more recently bought stakes in, or assets from, British retail businesses that have struggled to cope with challenges ranging from the rise of internet shopping to higher business property taxes and sluggish consumer spending.
These businesses have included department store groups Debenhams and House of Fraser, home furnishings firm Sofa.com, Evans Cycles and Lingerie brand Agent Provocateur.
“Sports Direct is increasingly looking part sports retail chain, part turnaround specialist, though investors will be left wondering how this all fits into a coherent strategy,” Laith Khalaf, Senior Analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown, said in an email.
Patisserie Holdings ran around 200 outlets, employing about 2,500 people, and had a stock market value approaching £500 million ($646 million) before it ran into trouble.
KPMG said on January 24 that 27 Patisserie Valerie stores, 25 Patisserie Valerie concessions and 19 Druckers cake shops had been closed, with the loss of 920 jobs.
It said the remaining 122 outlets would continue to trade while it looked for a buyer.
Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported last month that restaurateur David Scott, who sold Druckers to Patisserie Valerie more than a decade ago, was working to try to save at least half of Patisserie Valerie’s shops. — Reuters