Published: 09:42, 08 April 2019
| Updated: 10:13, 08 April 2019
The fight for control - and survival - of one of the high street's best known names could come to a dramatic head this week.
And if takeover talks collapse, Debenhams could go into administration.
The struggling giant has been locked in talks over recent weeks with Sports Direct over a rescue package which would see Mike Ashley installed as Debenhams' CEO and £150million pumped into the ailing firm's coffers.
The firm currently has outlets in Ashford, Gravesend, Folkestone, Canterbury, Westwood Cross and Chatham.
It announced last year it was in trouble and earlier this year store closures could be expected as one of a number of options it faces.
But after a remarkable statement on Sunday - in which Ashley accused Debenhams bosses of "falsehoods and denials" - the deal appeared to be hanging in the balance.
The statement said: “For the avoidance of doubt, it is Sports Direct’s contention that the board of Debenhams and its advisors have undertaken a sustained programme of falsehoods and denials.
"The fact that they can so openly lie in their recollection of joint meetings with Sports Direct is beyond the pale.”
Debenhams' board, which did not respond to the allegations, currently has two options open to it.
One is to hand over control to Ashley, the other a refinancing plan which would see it go into what is known as pre-pack administration, which would put its creditors in control, and prompt the closure of dozens of its stores. The deadline for that is today.
This morning, Sports Direct issued a statement stating that it has until 5pm on Monday, April 22 to confirm whether it is to make a firm intention to make an offer for the company.
It said: "Sports Direct wishes to confirm that it continues to seek to constructively engage with the Debenhams board and, as one of a number of potential options under consideration, it has made a proposal to Debenhams under which Sports Direct would underwrite a £150 million pre-emptive equity issuance to existing Debenhams shareholders."
This equity issuance would form part of a comprehensive refinancing of Debenhams. It would be delivered as part of a package which would see Ashley CEO and the chain's lenders agree to writing off £148m of Debenhams' debt.
Should the Debenhams board opt for administration, the value of shares held in the firm will be wiped out - which includes Mike Ashley's 29% stake which he has spent an estimated £150m on.