The companies behind Toys ‘R’ Us and Ben Sherman are among the rival suitors weighing offers for Hunter Boot, the royal warrant-holding footwear brand.
Sky News understands that WHP Global, which owns the toy retailer, and Marquee Brands, owner of the fashion brand, have both expressed an interest in Hunter ahead of a bid deadline at the end of the week.
City sources said that Baozun, a Chinese digital commerce group which owns Gap’s Greater China operations, was also among the interested parties.
Earlier this month, Sky News revealed that Authentic Brands Group, the American company behind brands such as Reebok and Ted Baker, had entered the bidding for Hunter.
The auction of the business is reaching a critical stage weeks after Hunter Boot secured a multimillion pound funding lifeline, with existing shareholders injecting £5m into the business and lenders contributing a further £2m.
Hunter, whose boots have often been seen adorning festival-going celebrities such as Kate Moss and the Princess of Wales, is working with advisers at AlixPartners on the auction.
The company was last saved in 2020 through a £16.5m capital injection, part of which came from Pall Mall Legacy, a fund backed by Goldman Sachs and Three Hills Capital Partners, an existing shareholder.
Pall Mall Legacy owns the majority of Hunter’s shares, with Searchlight Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and Pentland Group, the sportswear giant behind brands such as Speedo, holding the remainder.
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Hunter, which was founded in 1856 as the North British Rubber Company, has seen a post-COVID rebound in sales, with revenue in China accounting for a chunk of its recent growth.
Hunter is one of only 10 companies to hold two royal warrants – one of which was issued by Queen Elizabeth II.
The cancellation of live entertainment events and music festivals such as Glastonbury has had a particularly severe impact on Hunter, which has long-been associated with celebrities such as Ms Moss.
Hunter was historically dominated by sales of Wellington boots, but has increasingly diversified into a broader array of lifestyle products.
It has exited its retail store portfolio such as its former flagship on London’s Regent Street with the exception of a site at Bicester Village and Woodbury in New York.
A spokesman for Hunter declined to comment, while none of the prospective bidders could be reached for comment.