Private investment firm Clearlake Capital Group has emerged as the stalking horse bidder for the assets of plus-size fashion retailer Ashley Stewart.

Under the agreement, Clearlake intends to keep Ashley Stewart as a standalone going concern and provide the business with growth capital.

Clearlake will take a "significant" number of Ashley Stewart's 168 stores, assuming all purchase orders and supporting the refocused merchandising, real estate and e-commerce strategies spearheaded by the retailer's senior management team.

The news comes less than a month after Ashley Stewart filed for bankruptcy following a decline in profitability, and described it as a "necessary step" to position the retailer for growth.

"The offer from Clearlake Capital Group is a positive step toward the company moving forward as a stand-alone going concern," said Michael Abate, senior vice president of finance, treasurer and secretary of Ashley Stewart.

The deal is subject to Bankruptcy Court approval and to the receipt of higher or otherwise better offers at an upcoming auction.