Sir Philip Green’s high street empire collapsed last night, putting up to 13,000 jobs at risk.
Arcadia – owner of Topshop, Burton, Wallis, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge – plunged into administration.
There was no immediate word from Sir Philip, who built the retail giant and oversaw it as a director of both Arcadia and its parent firm Taveta Investments.
Arcadia chief executive Ian Grabiner called it “an incredibly sad day”.
Its 444 UK stores, and others abroad, will continue to trade while their future is decided, with jobs safe for now.
Nearly 9,300 of its workforce are currently furloughed due to the coronavirus crisis. Mr Grabiner said it tried to “ride out the pandemic and come out fighting on the other side”.
But he said: “Ultimately, in the face of the most difficult trading conditions we’ve ever experienced, the obstacles were too severe.”
But the group is thought to have been struggling before the pandemic, avoiding administration last year.
Deloitte’s Matt Smith said: “We expect to identify buyers to ensure the future success of the businesses.”
Retail billionaire Mike Ashley, online giant Boohoo, Next and Marks & Spencer are thought to be possible bidders.
Around 10,000 members of Arcadia’s two pension funds risk having their retirement pots cut by up to 20% due to a £350million shortfall.
Sir Philip’s wife Lady Green, owner of parent firm Taveta, previously agreed to pay in £50million. She received a record £1.2billion dividend in 2005.
Sir Philip is planning to spend Christmas at a luxury Maldives resort.
Stephen Timms, head of the MPs’ Work and Pensions Committee, called on him to rescue the group’s pensions.
He said: “There is unquestionably a moral case for the Green family to guarantee staff what is rightfully theirs.”
There is also a threat to Debenhams due to its in-store reliance on Arcadia.