Renee Elliott, the founder of Planet Organic, is returning to spearhead a rescue deal for the supermarket chain she launched in 1995.
Sky News has learnt that Ms Elliott has agreed to lead a takeover of Planet Organic in a deal expected to be finalised on Tuesday.
City sources said she had assembled backing from a number of private investors, and planned to acquire the company through a pre-pack administration.
Interpath Advisory, which has been overseeing efforts to find a buyer for Planet Organic since February, is expected to be appointed administrator before selling the majority of its 13 stores to Ms Elliott’s consortium.
Peter Marsh, Planet Organic’s former chief executive, is said to have been lined up by Ms Elliott to return to the business.
Further details of the rescue deal, including the scale of potential job losses, were unclear on Monday night.
It will come after weeks of talks with a range of parties, with Waitrose, J Sainsbury and Holland & Barrett all having expressed an interest in buying parts of Planet Organic.
Redbus Ventures, an investment vehicle set up by one of the founders of Lovefilm, has also lodged an offer.
Planet Organic trades from just over a dozen stores and employs roughly 360 people.
The current chief executive George Dymond told staff last month that it had “not got back to the levels of sales that we were seeing before the pandemic”.
“So, while we have taken every possible action to improve our position, including additional investment from our existing shareholders, we have so far been unsuccessful in raising sufficient funds needed to support the business and the growth plan.
“I want you all to know how very sorry I am that we are in this position – I am conscious that this will be a very uncertain time for you all.”
The chain sells organic food and drink, as well as healthcare and bodycare products.
Like many retailers, its recent performance has been hampered by the pandemic and reduced city centre footfall.
It is understood to have been loss-making in each of its last two financial years.
None of those involved in the deal could be reached on Monday.