Agent Provocateur’s owner 3i is considering selling the struggling lingerie business as the private equity firm weighs up its options for the retailer.

Agent Provocateur’s owner 3i is considering selling the struggling lingerie business

Agent Provocateur

Agent Provocateur has faced increased competition

The high-end lingerie chain has struggled amid fierce competition from the likes of Victoria’s Secret, but has attracted interest from sovereign wealth funds and high-net-worth individuals.

3i has drafted in restructuring company Alix Partners to explore options for the business, the Sunday Times reported. 

3i, which has owned Agent Provocateur since 2007, is considering either selling the business altogether, or bringing in other investors and retaining a minority stake.

Investment bank Rothschild has been appointed to handle the possible sale of the retailer.

Both Alix Partners and Rothschild declined to comment.

It is not the first time 3i has attempted to offload Agent Provocateur.

In 2014 it tried to sell its majority stake in the chain after appointing Goldman Sachs to lead a review of the business, but an anticipated £250m sale but did not materialise.

News of fresh plans to sell Agent Provocateur emerged just weeks after 3i hired KPMG to investigate accountancy irregularities at the business, which were brought to light during a board reshuffle.

The retailer’s chief executive Gary Hogarth left the business last February, while chairman Chris Woodhouse is understood to have handed his chairmanship of the lingerie brand to Ian Lobley – a partner at 3i.

In November, the private equity group said: “We are supporting the new management team to put in place a new strategic plan, which involves a restructuring of the business.

“Agent Provocateur is still a valuable brand and, as part of this restructuring, we have provided further investment of £4m in the quarter to 30 September 2016.”