Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley has complained that the administrators of Debenhams are not conducting a “genuine” sale process.
Ashley, who had hoped to take control of the department store group before its collapse into administration, has written to the Financial Conduct Authority about his concerns, The Sunday Times reported.
He fears that restrictions imposed upon potential buyers of Debenhams could put them off from bidding.
Lazard, which is in charge of the Debenhams sale process, has reportedly approached approximately 70 potential buyers for the chain, after its lenders took control of the business through a pre-pack administration earlier this month.
However, prospective bidders have been requested to sign an NDA prohibiting them from contacting any Debenhams landlords or concessionaires for 18 months. Potential buyers would want to speak to landlords, Sports Direct argued.
A Debenhams spokesperson said: ”As referenced in the announcement of 9 April, a sale process for the company has been launched and a comprehensive assessment of parties’ interest in acquiring the business is underway.
”It is completely usual for prospective buyers to be required to sign an NDA restricting them from speaking to third parties in relation to a sales process. Multiple parties, both strategic and financial, have agreed to these NDA provisions and are actively participating in the process.”
The spat is the latest involving Ashley, who also owns department store group House of Fraser, over the future of Debenhams.
Sports Direct was the biggest shareholder in Debenhams and, like other equity investors, had its stake wiped out when lenders seized the department store group.
He had sought to provide a loan or underwrite an emergency equity issue to prevent the administration of Debenhams. However, conditions he sought to impose, including his own appointment as chief executive of Debenhams, were deemed unacceptable to other shareholders.
Debenhams is now expected to proceed with a CVA and close about 50 branches as part of its turnaround efforts.
Former chief executive Sergio Bucher left Debenhams last week, when former Argos owner Home Retail chief executive Terry Duddy stepped up to become interim executive chairman.