Just days after Mr Ashley's Sports Direct pipped the owner of Edinburgh Woollen Mill to the takeover of House of Fraser, retail sources say both entrepreneurs have trained their sights on its closest rival.
It is likely Ashley will want to turn some stores into Sports Direct and Flannels, a fashion chain he owns.
The Chinese-owned department store group set out the race against time in a statement to the Luxembourg stock exchange, where its bonds are listed.
Opened in Liverpool 1856, Lewis's was a much loved department store and its flagship home store served as the location of the world's first Christmas grotto in 1879, entitled "Christmas Fairyland". In a bid to avert collapse, House of Fraser in June laid out plans to close more than half of its 59 stores in the United Kingdom and Ireland, prompting protests from some landlords.
However, after exploring a range of options, it became clear that this would not be possible to achieve as a solvent solution and as such House of Fraser filed for insolvency protection this morning.
The future of the Cirencester store as well as 30 others still remains unclear, with no details yet of Ashley's plans for House of Fraser.
For the year ended 28 January 2017 (the last date to which statutory accounts are available for the parent company and prior to the appointment of the administrators), the House of Fraser group had gross assets of GBP946.3m and made GBP14.7m net profit.
"I picked a pair of shoes but a member of staff said "I'm sorry but we can't accept it as we have gone into administration".
Paul McCarthy, centre manager at Intu Chapelfield, said: "We are aware that House of Fraser has been bought by Sports Direct".
Sports Direct would not comment on store closures or how many of House of Fraser's 16,000 jobs will be lost.
This precipitated a three-way tussle between retail billionaires Ashley and Philip Day as well as a proposal by Alteri Investors, with Ashley ultimately emerging on top.
Now, the government has indicated that it could bow to mounting pressure to reform the punitive business rates system after the tax was named among factors which contributed to House of Fraser's downfall.
While the department store entered rescue talks with a number of different companies, these have continued to break down over the past few months.
Yet many of House of Fraser's creditors objected to the plan.