THE owner of Sports Direct is reported to have bought House of Fraser within hours of it going into administration.

Mike Ashley, who also owns a 29.7 per cent stake in Debenhams, stepped in shortly after it was revealed that rescue talks had collapsed.

The latest twists spell new uncertainty for the Bournemouth store that has been an institution since 1871.

The futures of 17,000 staff nationwide are at stake.

House of Fraser said early on Friday morning discussions between interested investors and its main creditors did not end in a "solvent solution" and it had no choice but to appoint administrators.

But it Fraser said parts of the department store could still be rescued, most likely through a pre-pack administration process, where a new buyer cherry picks the best assets.

The Bournemouth branch was already due to close in 2019, under a rescue package which was agreed by landlords, only for the financial backer to pull out.

House of Fraser’s Bournemouth branch can trace its history to 1871, when Frederick Bright opened a shop selling needlework and wool at the Arcade.

Bright’s of Bournemouth expanded into neighbouring shops and was later bought by Dingles, which in turn became a division of House of Fraser.

In recent years, House of Fraser – largely owned by Chinese group Sanpower – has racked up £390million in debts

House of Fraser said this morning that "significant progress has been made" in reaching a sale of the group's business and assets.

EY, which was expected to be appointed administrator, will continue discussions with interested parties in the hope of reaching a deal "shortly after their appointment".

Would-be suitors include tracksuit tycoon Mike Ashley and Philip Day, the billionaire owner of Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

House of Fraser assured that its offices and stores will continue trading as normal while the company tries for a deal.

"All stores will be open for business as usual today," it said in an announcement to the Luxembourg Stock Exchange.

Chief executive Alex Williamson said: "We are hopeful that the current negotiations will shortly be concluded.

"An acquisition of the 169-year-old retail business will see House of Fraser regain stability, certainty and financial strength.

"In the two weeks since the Cenbest and C.Banner transaction ceased, the directors have brought forward a number of potential buyers and the group's financial advisers have run a comprehensive M&A (mergers and acquisitions) process to identify and then develop other third party interest that has culminated in the senior secured creditors leading negotiations with parties at a critical pace."