Iceland boss Malcolm Walker looks certain to retain control of the frozen food chain he founded after striking an agreement late last night with Icelandic stakeholders to enter exclusive deal negotiations.

The retailer’s management, led by Walker, came to the terms with the liquidators of shareholders Landsbanki Islands and Glitnir.

The arrangement means that Walker has the opportunity to buy Iceland ahead of any other possible bids.

Walker said: “I am delighted that the Icelandic banks have recognised the importance of management to the continuing success of the business, and have been supportive in giving us the exclusive right to pursue negotiations with them.

“I have every hope that we will be able to bring these to a successful conclusion within the coming weeks.

“This gives us a fantastic opportunity to achieve a deal that will be in the best long term interests of Iceland Foods, our 22,000 staff and the 5 million customers who shop with us each week.”

Landsbanki Islands has confirmed that, along with Glitnir, it has entered into exclusive discussions with Iceland management, led by Walker.

Landmark Group, which owns Italian restaurant chain Carluccio’s, is among a trio of partners which will add financial muscle to Walker’s bid. DFS founder Lord Kirkham and South African private equity firm Brait are also backing Walker’s bid, Sky News reports.

Landsbanki said it “believes that this approach delivers the most certainty around sale completion whilst achieving the objective of maximising the proceeds from the sale of the shares”.

It added: “It is expected that a binding share purchase agreement will be signed in a short period of time and  further announcements will be made as appropriate.”