US fashion retailer J Crew beloved by Michelle Obama & Katie Holmes, could be sold for $5bn

Fast Retailing has approached the management of J Crew about buying the business – famed for its high-quality but accessible designs – from its private-equity backers, reports The Telegraph.

Such a deal would derail J Crew’s fledgling plans to float the business this year. J Crew’s owners, TPG Capital and Leonard Green and Partners, approached Goldman Sachs in January to investigate a potential initial public offering but has not made any firm moves down that track.

The iconic American retailer has more than 400 stores across the US and Canada, and finally opened its doors in the UK last autumn. It has been hugely successful in the past few years partly thanks to the First Lady’s patronage, but also because of the stewardship of retail veteran Millard Drexler, its chief executive, and Jenna Lyons, creative director.

Last year, they helped push J Crew’s revenues up 9pc to $2.4bn. However, the company remains a minnow next to Fast Retailing.

The Japanese conglomerate employs more than 23,000 people and has a market capitalisation of Yen3.7 trillion (£21.5bn). Sales have been helped by its flagship Uniqlo chain, which has become a fixture on British high streets, selling a narrow range of simple, unbranded T-shirts and jeans that are high quality but much cheaper than many of its competitors.

The group also owns a string of higher-end fashion businesses, including Comptoirs des Cotonniers, Theory and high fashion label Helmut Lang.