• Matalan founder John Hargreaves emerges as frontrunner to save BHS
  • His joint offer with Cafer Mahiroglu pushes the duo to the front of the queue
  • But administrators are thought to be lining up liquidators after offers fell short of their valuation
  • No potential rescue deal is likely until next week at the earliest

Matalan founder John Hargreaves’ consortium has moved to the front of the queue to rescue BHS, but liquidators could still be called in.

Hargreaves, who has joined forces with Select Fashions owner Cafer Mahiroglu to table a bid for the embattled department store business, has reportedly emerged as the frontrunner to save the 88-year-old retailer.

According to The Guardian, the pair have offered between £60m and £75m for BHS after administrators said they would only assess bids for the entire business.

Hargreaves and Mahiroglu’s bid is understood to have gazumped rival offers from Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley, Edinburgh Woollen Mill owner Philip Day and Poundstretcher owner Aziz Tayub, who emerged as a shock bidder earlier this week.

However, administrator Duff & Phelps is thought to have lined up a trio of liquidators amid reports that the flurry of offers has fallen short of their valuation, despite asking suitors to increase their bids.

Restructuring firms Alteri, Hilco Capital and Gordon Brothers have been asked to assess how much BHS would be worth if its assets were sold off in parcels rather than as a whole. The latter two parties had already been linked with bids for the entire BHS business.

While liquidation is viewed as a last resort if a rescue deal cannot be reached, The Telegraph reported that interest in rescuing the 88-year-old retailer has cooled amid concerns about BHS’s ability to replenish stock. The beleaguered department store chain held a heavily discounted Sale in a bid to drum up footfall after it slumped into administration last month.

Suitors are also said to be reluctant to take on all 164 BHS stores, with around a quarter of those being loss-making.

Potential buyers have been meticulously scrutinising lease lengths on the properties, which has pushed the timeline on the sale back and made any deal unlikely until next week at the earliest.

As revealed by Retail Week, BHS tumbled into administration in April, putting 11,000 jobs at risk.

Its demise came just over a year after former boss Sir Philip Green sold the retailer to Retail Acquisitions – a group of financiers, lawyers and accountants fronted by Dominic Chappell – for a nominal £1.