Retail entrepreneur Kevin Stanford has increased his stake in high-street chain Marks & Spencer to £50 million with the purchase of an extra 5.9m shares in the business.

Stanford - who founded upscale fashion chain Karen Millen - claims that the stake-building is an investment, and not preparation to launch a takeover bid.

In total, Stanford - who also holds stakes in clothing companies Moss Bros and Mulberry - now owns 13.9 shares in struggling M&S; almost 1 per cent of the company.

M&S's chief executive Stuart Rose is fighting to retain the head of its successful Per Una division, George Davies, according to reports at the weekend.