However, his final offer of £200m was rejected because it was conditional on him becoming chief executive.
Mr Ashley subsequently described the Debenhams takeover as a “national scandal” and called for the administration process to be reversed.
Debenhams is the biggest department store chain in the UK with 166 stores. It employs about 25,000 people.
Its stores will continue to trade as normal during the initial restructuring process, before closures begin next year.
As well as the planned closures, it has also been renegotiating rents with landlords to tackle its funding problems.
It has not released a list of which shops may be shut.
Debenhams is one of a string of well-known names suffering in a tough High Street environment.
Last year, Poundworld, Toys R Us and Maplin all went bust and disappeared altogether.
Other household names – Homebase, Mothercare, Carpetright and New Look – were forced into restructuring deals with their landlords, closing hundreds of stores.
Music chain HMV recently fell into administration before being bought.
The increasing popularity of online shopping, higher business rates, rising labour costs and the fall in the pound following the Brexit vote – which has increased the cost of imported goods – have been blamed for contributing to retailers’ woes.