Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley is up there among the UK’s colourful retail entrepreneurs (founder member Arcadia’s Sir Philip Green) but to find him the owner of Soho’s “corsets and ‘cuffs” emporium Agent Provocateur is an eye-opener. Agent Provocateur (with Paloma Faith below) was founded by Vivienne Westwood’s son Joe Corré and his ex-wife Serena Rees, sold to 3i (who cocked it up) and now it’s been bought by fashion brand agency Four Marketing, controlled by Ashley.
Ashley dips in and out of various retail opportunities (most notably Debenhams) but, like most retailers, he’s aware of the benefit of concessions in the stores of others. So will AP’s naughty attire find its way into Sports Direct stores, most notably its flagship Piccadilly Circus store (once the rather splendid Lillywhites) just around the corner from AP HQ in Broadwick Street? And maybe others, mostly to be found in less venturesome retail parks?
It’s an interesting notion. Wonder if Sir Phil would have been interested had he not been in the dock over BHS pensioners (he’s now agreed to pay “up to” £363m to help them out although he still has some rather big invoices to BHS’ liquidators that he wants paid). Agent Provocateur would seem a better fit with Top Shop (which could do with an injection of something) than Sports Direct.
Ashley (left) has been known to take a pint or two in Soho pubs when he visits the capital from his Derbyshire fastness. A spell behind the counter (pre or maybe post-pub) would surely pay dividends.