Retail heavyweights Mike Ashley, Allan Leighton eye BHS stores

A man stands outside a BHS store in Leicester, Britain April 25, 2016. REUTERS/Darren Staples

Mike Ashley, the billionaire owner of sports goods chain Sports Direct (SPD.L), could step in to save BHS, the 88-year-old British retailer that collapsed last Monday, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

Ashley was already in talks about rescuing the stores group last week before administrators were called in, the newspaper said, adding that he had not abandoned his plan.

“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,” Ashley told the newspaper.

BHS was placed into administration, a form of creditor protection, by owner Retail Acquisitions, putting 11,000 jobs at risk.

The administrator had received around 50 expressions of interest for all or parts of the group by Thursday, according to a source.

The Observer newspaper said Allan Leighton, chairman of the Co-operative Group and a former boss of supermarket operator Asda, was one of up to 10 potential bidders interested in buying up to 60 BHS stores and possibly the brand.

Leighton was the chairman of BHS between 2000 and 2007.

Others said to be interested include Edinburgh Woollen Mill owner Philip Day, the newspaper said.

Lawmakers have asked the former owner of the chain, Philip Green, to answer questions about the BHS collapse.

Green bought BHS for 200 million pounds in 2000 and when it was profitable it paid out several hundreds of millions of pounds of dividends to his family. He sold it last year for one pound to Retail Acquisitions.