Mike Ashley has described the administration of Debenhams as a “national scandal”, with the Sports Direct owner urging the process to be reversed.
Debenhams stores are continuing to trade normally for now, but dozens of branches are already facing closure – and shareholders including Sports Direct, which owned a stake of almost 30%, have been wiped out.
Mr Ashley, who has made numerous attempts at a takeover, said in a statement to the stock exchange: “As normal, politicians and regulators fiddled whilst Rome burnt.
“These politicians and regulators have proven to be as effective as a chocolate teapot.
“I restate my call for the advisers to go to prison given their skulduggery in undermining shareholders and other stakeholders, such as employees and pensioners.
“I call on the authorities to reverse the administration process so that a full, better and appropriate solvent solution can be found.”
Sports Direct even accused the board of directors at Debenhams of facilitating the transaction by “playing their part through incompetence, or worse, through collusion”.
It said: “This is nothing short of a national scandal – and one that could so easily have been avoided if Debenhams had chosen to engage with its largest shareholders constructively rather than obstructively.
“Sports Direct has repeatedly asked regulators and MPs to stop this destruction of a British institution, and they have done nothing.
“Although Sports Direct still expects them to act, it is too little too late.”
Debenhams, which has 166 UK stores and employs more than 25,000 people, said suppliers, employees, pension holders and customers would not be immediately affected by the transaction.
Administrators at FTI Consulting were appointed to the retailer just before 10am on Tuesday – and they immediately sold the group’s operating companies to a new entity owned by its lenders.
Its new owners, including banks and hedge funds led by Silver Point, are expected to carry out a restructuring including a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) to cut back on the group’s rent bill and close loss-making stores.
The high street chain has been hit by a sharp slowdown in sales, high rents and ballooning debts. Last October, it reported an annual loss of £492m and confirmed plans to close up to 50 stores, putting about 4,000 jobs at risk.