Dave Whelan has bought JJB Sports' 53 fitness clubs and 51 associated stores, he has confirmed to Retail Week.

Whelan, who founded JJB in 1971 but sold his stake in 2007, said he had paid£76m.

He said was done the deal partly to safeguard the future of the wider chain but also because the fitness division is “a good business opportunity.”

He said that the sale should mean JJB will not face administration but believed there was “a bit more reorganisation to do” of the rump business that he does not own.

Whelan told Retail Week that Sir David Jones, who was made executive chairman in January to lead the rescue of JJB, had been “an excellent man to deal with”, but was dismissive of the contribution of former chief executive.

“It was Chris Ronnie that ruined it,” said Whelan.

Whelan said that his stores and gyms will be rebranded DW Sports Fitness. “I am absolutely delighted to be back in the game,” said Whelan.

“We are reverting the stores back to be a serious sports retailer.”

Whelan is working with big sports brands such as Adidas and Nike on his new offer.

The deal has still not been formally confirmed by JJB.