The controversial billionaire Sports Direct boss is planning to rescue stricken BHS, vowing to save all jobs and stores.
Mike Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United football club, is mulling over whether to make a formal offer to administrators.
It sparked speculation BHS could be turned into a bargain-basement discount shop like Sports Direct, with staff facing pay and benefits cuts.
Administrators are seeking buyers for the retailer as a going concern.
More than 50 firms have expressed an interest in all or part of the business and the administrator will open the books to allow suitors to get a better idea of BHS’s financial state.
Co-operative Group chairman Allan Leighton is also said to be considering a bid for a chunk. He is a former chairman of BHS and was responsible for turning Asda around.
Mr Ashley tried to mount a rescue last week but could not agree terms. It is thought he was unwilling to take on the firm’s huge pension liabilities.
But he is still interested in the 164 stores and issued a statement saying: ‘Any continuing interest that we have in BHS would be on the basis that we would anticipate that there would not be any job losses including jobs at head office, and that all stores would remain open.’
Although Mr Ashley’s rescue plan could see the BHS name kept alive and save many jobs, it will be greeted uneasily by many. In March the Sports Direct owner refused to appear before MPs who summoned him to answer questions over staff working conditions at Sports Direct.