Brian Kennedy, the former owner of the Sale Sharks rugby team, has acquired a minority stake in UK sports-nutrition firm and takeover target THG.

Previously trading as The Hut Group, loss-making THG is already on the radar of US-headquartered private-equity firm Apollo Global Management, which has launched a preliminary takeover bid for the London-listed business.

THG has acknowledged receipt of Apollo’s bid, with a 15 May deadline to make a firm offer under UK regulatory requirements.

Kennedy, a one-time investor in double-glazing business Everest, has purchased 37.2 million shares in THG, according to a regulatory filing. That equates to a 2.86% interest in UK online retailer, which owns businesses such as the Myprotein sports nutrition range and the Lookfantastic beauty brand.

THG also acts as a direct-to-consumer platform for other brands under its THG Ingenuity SaaS licensing business.

Media reports suggested Kennedy is now the sixth-largest shareholder in Manchester-based THG behind the online business’ co-founder Matthew Moulding, holding company Sofina in Brussels, and investors Balderton Capital, the Qatar Investment Authority and Jupiter Asset Management.

Kennedy is the chairman of Latium Enterprises, a private-equity investor based in the north-west English city of Manchester. Latium acquired Everest in 1999 before the glazing company was sold in 2012, according to its website. Sale Sharks, meanwhile, was sold in 2016.

THG’s website was awash with regulatory news filings to the London Stock Exchange today (2 May) showing share purchases from corporate and individual investors.

Its shares were up more than 16% at 116.00 pence as of 4:02 BST in volatile London trading, moving sharply between gains and losses. Prior to the Apollo bid, the price had plummeted from around 790 pence in September 2021.

Meanwhile, Sky News suggested today Camillo Pane, the former CEO of beauty company Coty and now a senior advisor to private-equity firms, has been brought in by Apollo to assist with the THG bid. Tony Buffin, once CEO of health retailer Holland & Barrett, is also part of the same advisory.

THG made an operating loss of £495.6m ($617.8m) in the year to 31 December 2022, wider than the £137.5m loss the previous year, the company revealed in April.

Then came a call from THG activist investor Kelso Group pressing for the sale of the Mycoprotein business. On 21 April, London-based Kelso revealed it had increased its stake in the online retailer to eight million shares, which media reports suggested amounted to about 0.55% of the business.