Agent Provocateur chairman steps down amid ‘accounting issues’

Chris Woodhouse has stepped down as chairman of Agent Provocateur amid an inquiry into “accounting issues”.

The high-end lingerie brand has handed over the reins to Ian Lobley, a partner at 3i Group, Agent Provocateur’s parent company, Sky News reports.

The boardroom changes are understood to have taken place in recent weeks, and come after a difficult trading period for the prominent manufacturer, which 3i acquired in 2007.

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Woodhouse is remaining on the board as a non-executive director, and his departure as chairman is said to be a consequence of the amount of time required to improve the business’s performance.

Sales in the year to March 28, 2015, the last for which accounts are available, rose 16% to £61.7m, but pre-tax profits fell by more than a quarter to £4.6m.

The news comes 10 months after Garry Hogarth stepped down as CEO of the company.

It was widely reported that Agent Provocateur was expected to be groomed for a sale following his departure at the time, but Lingerie Insight confirmed that 3i had no immediate plans to sell the business.

A spokesperson for the private equity firm reiterated what Hogarth told Lingerie Insight in May 2015 – that 3i was advised by Goldman Sachs to hold off from a sale due to the label’s “huge growth potential”.

A new management team‎ has been installed at the company, Sky News reported, with a restructuring plan now underway supported by an additional £4m investment by 3i.

These “challenges”, it said last month, had prompted the value of its stake in Agent Provocateur to be reduced by £39m.

3i is also embroiled in a legal dispute with Joe Corre, Agent Provocateur’s founder, said to be related to the price paid for his shares in the company.

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