The deputy chairman of Alliance Boots tonight confirmed his interest in a possible #9.5 billion takeover of the retailer and drugs wholesaler.
Stefano Pessina, who is working with private equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, has made a "friendly approach" to the blue-chip company.
The interest emerged just hours after Alliance Boots said it had received a tentative takeover approach, although it did not name the suitor.
Milan-born Mr Pessina is a former nuclear engineer who turned his family drugs wholesale business into one of the most successful pharmaceutical empires in Europe.
It was taken over by UniChem in 1997 but Mr Pessina retained a sizeable stake in the enlarged business, called Alliance UniChem.
He became executive deputy chairman of Alliance Boots, following a merger of equals involving Alliance UniChem and UK retailer Boots last summer.
A statement today said: "KKR’s and Stefano Pessina’s objective is to work closely with the existing executive management team to achieve the long-term vision of building a global leader in the healthcare services and beauty industries."