Mike Ashley offers patisserie Valerie as he seeks to expand his High Street realm
Lucy White and Hannah Uttley for the Daily Mail
Mike Ashley has submitted an offer to Patisserie Valerie to expand his High Street empire.
Ten days after the mail had revealed its plans, tycoon Sports Direct announced that it had made an offer for the Bust Café chain.
Valerie's patisserie, whose roots date back to 1926, when the first coffee shop opened in Soho, was forced to its knees in an accounting scandal before being put under administration last month.
Bad taste: Mike Ashley's interest in Patisserie Valerie will scare the chain's landlords
The move came a few days after Ashley (54) lost to 34-year-old Canadian Doug Putman when he bought after the collapse of the HMV band.
Ashley, who also owns football club Newcastle United, is notorious for having to wait until companies fail before he can buy them at low prices.
He brought House of Fraser out of the administration for £ 90m last summer and has since closed deals and negotiated landlord rental rates.
In addition, Ashley bought Evans Cycles in a similar deal in October and has hired around 30 stores.
The entrepreneur's interest in patisserie Valerie will frighten the chain's landlords, who may also face Ashley's rent reductions if he wins the tendering process.
Administrator KPMG, who is selling Patisserie Valerie, had set a deadline for bidding last Friday noon. It is believed that several interested parties have signaled their interest, including the founder of the Druckers Café chain, David Scott, who sold his business to Valerie Patisserie over ten years ago.
But Ashley's late strike is another bold move.
A purchase by Patisserie Valerie would add to its growing retail portfolio, which includes Sports Direct, House of Fraser, Evans Cycles, Agent Provocateur and Flannels Department Store. He has made extensive investments in a number of high street stores including Debenhams, French Connection and Game Digital, and most recently snapped up the online furniture company Sofa.
The Patisserie Valerie was forced to its knees after a surprising £ 40 million black hole was discovered in its books last year.
In the alleged fraud, chairman Luke Johnson, who owned 37 percent of the company, tried to keep the business running by investing millions of pounds of his own money. However, the Valerie patisserie collapsed after failing to enter into a loan agreement with lenders of £ 9.7m. This meant that she could not afford the further trade.
A total of 72 cafés were closed, in which 900 employees lost their jobs. At more than 100 locations that are currently still in commerce, around 2,000 remain at risk.
The scandal at Patisserie Valerie led to an exodus of top management with Johnson, the only original member of the five-member board remaining in the firm. His finance director Chris Marsh was arrested shortly after the detection of the so-called fraud and subsequently released on bail.
The patisserie Valerie has described the effects of the scandal as "devastating", with thousands of false entries in the books.
A series of investigations into what went wrong in the firm are underway and Grant Thornton, Patisserie Valerie's former accountant, is being examined by the Financial Reporting Council's accountant.