Cumbria-based retail billionaire Philip Day is understood to have made surprise bid for Dobbies Garden Centres after Tesco put the chain up for sale.
His Edinburgh Woollen Mill empire, based in Langholm, Dumfires and Galloway, includes Peacocks. Other potential suitors looking at Dobbies include Wyevale Garden Centres, owned by private equity firm Terra Firma.
Tesco brought in investment bankers from Greenhill to sound out buyers last month.
Britain’s No 1 grocer bought Dobbies in 2008 under former boss Sir Terry Leahy. It has 36 garden centres, two attached to supermarkets.
The deal will go through before the EU vote on 23 June and will be for between £175m-£200m.
There are around 100 Edinburgh Woollen Mill concessions in garden centres and around 300 EWM stores overall, as well as 100 Pondon Mills, 500 Peacocks and 100 other outlets.
Nicholas Marshall, James Barnes, Andy King and Carlyle Hedge Fund have all also been spoken about as potential suitors for Dobbies.