French Connection founder Stephen Marks is seeking to sell his 42% stake in the fashion retailer.

Marks has started approaching potential buyers, Sky originally reported.

The retailer said today that it is “reviewing all strategic options in order to deliver maximum value for its shareholders, which includes the potential sale of the company”.

French Connection pointed out that “there can be no certainty that an offer will be made, nor as to the terms on which any offer will be made”.

The retailer is now considered to be in an “offer period” and has appointed Numis as financial adviser.

Marks’ decision has prompted speculation about whether Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley could pounce on French Connection, in which he controls a 27% stake.

French Connection has suffered losses for five years.

Marks founded the retailer 50 years ago but in recent years has been criticised for his joint role as chairman and chief executive.

The retailer, which has 130 stores in the UK and 400 globally, was worth £41m at close of business on Friday.