Many eyes will be on island billionaire John Whittaker after Trafford Centre owner Intu tumbled into administration following failed crunch talks with its lenders.

The property billionaire is the largest shareholder in Intu holding 27.3%.

And business circles are speculating that if Intu is forced to sell the Trafford Centre, perhaps Mr Whittaker himself will buy it back.

Mr Whittaker leads Peel Holdings and the Trafford Centre was the group’s first landmark development.

Peel went on to develop MediaCity UK, Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

The Trafford Centre was sold to Capital Shopping Centre, now Intu Properties, for £1.6 billion back in 2011.

And Peel Holdings still retains its head office at the centre.

Intu said it has applied to appoint administrators from KPMG, after warning earlier on Friday that it was on the verge of collapse.

The confirmation came minutes after the London Stock Exchange suspended shares in the listed firm.

However, the company said its shopping centres will continue to trade for the time being despite its insolvency.

Intu, which also runs Lakeside in Essex, had been in a desperate scramble to agree a ’standstill’ on its current loan agreements.

Earlier on Friday the group said it was likely to appoint administrators, as it remained unable to agree the terms of such a deal with its creditors.

In a statement, the group, which had until midnight on Friday to reach a deal, said ’insufficient alignment and agreement has been achieved’.

Earlier last week, Intu said it put the administrators from KPMG on stand-by as it looked to secure a deal ahead of the midnight deadline on its current loan covenants.

The group has struggled under a £4.5 billion debt burden for the past year, but has been hammered by significantly lower rent payments from retail tenants since the coronavirus outbreak.

Intu employs about 3,000 staff across the UK, while a further 102,000 work for the shops within its shopping centres.