Managent buyout vehicle Henson No 1 has acquired value retail operator Peacock Group for £404.4m (US$478m), a Peacock spokesman confirmed to just-style.

Up to 45.3% of the company will be held by Peacock's managers, with up to a further 5% to be made available to shareholders, the spokesman said.

The acquisition is being led by chief executive Richard Kirk. Industry speculation suggests former chairman John Lovering, who is investing £9.2m in the buyout, is likely to return to the position following the transaction.

US hedge funds Och-Ziff and Perry Capital will provide £70m each and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners will provide £28m.

Industry sources believe Peacock is continuing to search for new stores in all three of its Peacocks, bonmarché and The Fragrance Shop chains, and is eyeing the Eastern European market as a key destination for store growth.

Kirk said in October that the company is successfully moving away from its former image as a "fat old lady's knicker shop" and is on track to become a rival to fashion chains such as River Island and New Look.
Peacock, which operates about 436 stores, said total group sales for the 26 weeks ended 1 October rose 11.1%.