The Business On... June Kenton, Proprietor, Rigby & Peller

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The Independent Online

What? The Queen's corsetière has been sold to the Belgians?

It's true, June Kenton has sold a majority stake in her upmarket lingerie business Rigby & Peller to her biggest supplier. Van de Velde is a Belgian company that designs and manufactures lingerie. It is responsible for the Prima Donna and Marie Jo brands sold in R&P's shops.

So a royal profit then?

Oh yes. Mrs Kenton and husband Harold bought the firm back in 1982 for the princely sum of £20,000. The sale price was a rather more regal £8m. Last year the business, whose products start out at £50 but caneasily reach £200 for a bespoke bra, generated sales of £10m.

But the company is a little different, isn't it?

True. Rigby & Peller is something of a labour of love for Mrs Kenton. The company is famed for its rigour when it comes to bra fitting (85 per cent of women apparently wear the wrong size). Mrs Kenton is also evangelical about breast-cancer awareness, and has transferred this to the business. She once hung "Be Breast Aware" tags from a million of her products.

With good reason.

The "matriarch" of the lingerie industry has previously revealed she has yearly checks for breast cancer. This paid off when cancerous cells were caught early and she was able to have successful treatment.

So will this deal change the company for the worse?

Mrs Kenton says not. The family will still have a say in its running, retaining a 13 per cent stake and Mrs Kenton, 75, will continue to be closely involved in the business, which in addition to its royal backing has started to attract entertainment royalty, notably Lady Gaga. Mrs Kenton and her son David will remain on the board of directors.

Why now then?

Mrs Kenton describes Van de Velde as a "family orientated company" and says they share the same "values and vision". Her Belgian partners "appreciate the value of heritage". But presumably this means expansion beyond Rigby & Peller's seven stores is on the cards.