L Capital, the private-equity arm of the world's biggest luxury goods company, LVMH, is among suitors plotting to make a major investment in Joules, the fashion retailer favoured by the county set.
LDC, the buyout division of Lloyds Banking Group, is also considering buying a stake in Joules, which is valued at more than £55m, but Graphite Capital is out of the running.
Joules, which has more than 70 stores, has teamed up with advisers at Rothschild and is considering options to raise funds for expansion in the UK and overseas.
It was thought that Tom Joule, the founder and chief executive and its biggest shareholder, wanted to sell only a minority stake, but he is now considering selling a majority shareholding. However, he wants to remain in charge irrespective of the auction's outcome, according to sources.
Mr Joule founded the retailer in 1994 to sell country clothing at equestrian and outdoor events. It has recently extended its offer into homewares, such as duvet covers, cushions, towels and cuddly toys. It is on track to make underlying profits of £7m for this financial year.
L Capital was created in 2001 with backing from LMVH, Groupe Arnault, the holding company of LVMH's chief executive, Bernard Arnault, and Malaysia's YTL.
All parties declined to comment.