Former Courts UK boss Steven Cohen has amassed venture capital backing and is on the hunt for a retail acquisition.

It is believed that he has access to cash in the region of£50 million, although he refused to comment.

The former M&A banker is understood to be assessing several opportunities at present and is progressing towards due diligence on one or more projects, including a fashion chain.

Cohen left the former family-run Courts earlier this year, after a reported£50 million MBO of the UK chain, backed by venture capitalist 3i, failed to see the light of day.

At that time, the board - which had appointed Cavendish and Merrill Lynch to advise on strategic options - was thought to be considering selling off the domestic chain, after the dollar's weakness necessitated a waiver of one of its financial covenants.

'Steven was responsible for putting together the three-year turnaround plan for the UK and developed the new store format,' said a source familiar with the situation. 'During last year's winter Sale the chain achieved like-for-like order growth of 31 per cent and his strategy was considered by competitors to be working.'

Courts has issued a string of profit warnings this year. Like-for-like sales were down 20 per cent in the UK over the past eight weeks, with the new management team blaming reduced footfall.

Venture capitalists are said to be circling the embattled group. Interested parties are thought to include SB Capital Europe, an offshoot of US business Schottenstein Stores Corporation, and is backed by philanthropist and speculator George Soros.

It is thought that Cohen has no plans to renew attempts to bid for Courts.