French Connection says it could be sold

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Newscast

Shares in struggling fashion chain French Connection have risen 25% to 55p after it said it may be up for sale.

Following speculation at the weekend, it said it was “reviewing all strategic options” including the potential sale of the firm.

It adds, though, there is no certainty an offer will be made for the company.

Sports Direct and House of Fraser owner Mike Ashley has a 27% stake in the chain, which is 40% owned by founder Stephen Marks.

French Connection, which has made a loss for each of the five most recent years, also sells homewares and perfumes. It owns the brands Great Plains and YMC and formerly owned upmarket fashion label Nicole Farhi, with whose eponymous owner he had a close partnership.

The company’s customers are aged between 18 and 35. It has almost 400 stores in 50 countries around the world, 130 of them in the UK.

French Connection’s statement confirmed speculation previously reported by Sky News.

Last year, the firm appointed two new independent directors after facing pressure from investors to make top-level changes.

Mr Marks, who founded the company 50 years ago, is both chairman and chief executive, a concentration of power that is frowned upon by UK investors.

He has been sharply criticised for having too much control over the board.

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Nick Harvey

Who is Stephen Marks?

Born in 1946 in Harrow, North London, his father was a hairdresser. His first fashion job was at Louis Feraud, whose clothes were worn by Brigitte Bardot. After starting on his own in the late 1960s, he had some success with a consignment of hot pants and then French Connection, launched on the back of a consignment of cheesecloth shirts.

He was a successful schoolboy tennis player, winning a prize at Junior Wimbledon. He founded the fc** tennis academy which helped the careers of British players, including Jo Durie and Elena Baltacha.

He has backed Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch: both films featured French Connection clothing. In another British gangster film, Layer Cake, a mocked-up French Connection-branded range of cocaine and ecstasy was featured. Stephen Marks was the film’s executive producer

French Connection often shortens its name to fcuk, which it launched as an advertising slogan in 1997.

Its campaign ran under the line “fcuk fashion” and then, “fcuk advertising”, but it had to tone it down after numerous complaints were made to advertising watchdogs.

The controversy was so great that the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority asked to see all the company’s poster campaigns in advance.

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