Aquascutum, the latest Chinese take-away?

The future of the luxury British clothing brand Aquascutum is in doubt as reports suggest that its Japanese owner, Renown, is ready to sell up to a Chinese group, YGM, based in Hong Kong.

A reported management buy-out, to be led by the Aquascutum chief executive, Kim Winser, who has a track record of success at Marks and Spencer and Pringle, is thought to have stumbled. She has run the company since 2006 and sought to re-establish it as independent.

Renown has owned the famous brand since 1990 but is said to be experiencing financial challenges and would like to raise some cash.

Aquascutum employs 120 people at its factory in Corby and a total of 400 at its shops in the UK. Concerns centre on the future of manufacturing in this country and on group’s thepension fund, which is said to be in deficit. The Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, is taking a close interest and the Government’s pensions regulator has been appraised of the situation.

Aquascutum has enjoyed some high-profile patronage over the yearsincluding Diana, the Princess of Wales, Baroness Thatcher, Sir Winston Churchill, Sophia Loren, and Humphrey Bogart. The former James Bond actor Piers Brosnan is the brand's current “ambassador”.

The company gains its name from the Latin for “watershield”, having made its reputation supplying waterproof coats for Crimean War soldiers. Since 1854 it has become one of the most prestigious clothing brands in the world. Like many other luxury brands, bright growth prospects, especially in Asia, have been overshadowed by the recession.