Former Blacks Leisure chairman and chief executive Simon Bentley is understood to be plotting a return to the outdoors specialist as it battles to secure its future.
Bentley is keen to lead a turnaround of Blacks - which is restructuring ahead of a likely banking covenant breach - by going in with new backers.
Sources familiar with the situation said he is talking to potential partners, thought to include retail restructuring specialist Gordon Brothers which is interested in investing in turnaround situations.
A straightforward acquisition is highly unlikely and any deal would probably involve mechanisms such as a CVA or debt-for-equity swap with Blacks’ bankers.
Any deal would be complicated by the disputed ownership of a 29% stake in Blacks, which is in the hands of the administrator of collapsed Icelandic bank Kaupthing but claimed by Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley.
At present Bentley is acting chairman of Sports Direct. He ran Blacks for 12 years before leaving the group in 2002, following a near-fatal skiing accident.
Blacks this week disclosed plans to put 89 stores on the market through Jones Lang LaSalle and admitted that further restructuring is needed to satisfy conditions of a standstill agreement with Lloyds Banking Group in connection to the covenant breach.
As Retail Week went to press it was understood that Blacks might seek a CVA, which would provide existing management a chance to turn around the business themselves.
As part of its restructuring Blacks has begun consultation with employees at its Northampton head office, which could lead to the loss of 50 jobs. Blacks said in a statement that the closures and job losses were “highly regrettable” but would “ultimately strengthen the business and help ensure a successful and profitable outdoor retailer emerges from the current restructuring process”.
Last week Blacks placed its Sandcity arm, part of its loss-making boardwear division, into administration. Blacks declined to comment.