Stuart Rose, the former Arcadia chief executive, is to return to his old stamping ground at Debenhams if Permira's £1.5bn bid for the department store group is successful.
Mr Rose, who netted £25m when Philip Green acquired Arcadia last year, would become the group's non-executive chairman, rejoining a company he worked for in the early Nineties. He would be joined by his sidekick, Charles Wilson, who has agreed to join the board as a non-executive director.
The move sparked speculation that Permira was lining up a new management team for the high street retailer. The private equity house, which revealed its interest in acquiring Debenhams last month, is currently working with Belinda Earle, Debenhams' chief executive, and Matthew Roberts, its finance director, on its indicative proposal.
One retail analyst said: "What does a chairman add to a private company, especially this particular chairman? I find the whole thing very odd. I just can't see what the pair would bring to Debenhams."
Mr Rose, 54, denied that he would take a wider, hands-on role, saying: "I think the [current] management is great. This is Belinda's show." He said he would work two days a week for the retailer, while Mr Wilson will work only one day a month.
Mr Rose, who was short-listed for the top job at Boots and has been keen to get back into retailing, admitted his new role would rule him out of buying another clothing company.
He knows Debenhams well, having spent eight years at the Burton Group, when it owned the department store company. He left in 1997, after he failed to get the top job when Debenhams was spun off. He then chalked up a series of plum high street jobs, amassing a multimillion-pound fortune along the way. He has already started working with Permira on due diligence on the offer.