Mike Ashley is racing to complete a deal to buy Debenhams this weekend, sources have told The Mail on Sunday.
The sportswear mogul is in talks to buy the £500million web business – to help him crack the high-end cosmetics market – but the Debenhams store chain has been vastly slimmed down.
‘There’s very little time left to rescue the business,’ said one City source. ‘But without at least 30 or 40 of the 124 stores, this might not look very much like a rescue at all.’
New focus: Debenhams’ Beauty Club has more than a million loyalty members
Ashley last week flew by helicopter to examine the Debenhams warehouse in Peterborough as part of his preparations.
Other potential bidders have been locked out of talks and there are hopes that a deal can be struck as soon as tomorrow.
If not, a full-scale liquidation will be triggered within days to clear £300million of stock over the next three to four weeks.
Ashley, who owns House of Fraser, last week raved about the online cosmetics market at a secret meeting in the City.
He told analysts he wants to emulate internet cosmetics giant The Hut Group.
Debenhams has more than a million Beauty Club loyalty members.