JJB has reconfirmed this morning that its plans for an equity raising will go ahead, despite it being dogged by speculation and rumours in relation to its executive chairman Sir David Jones at the weekend.
The sports retailer said it is finalising arrangements for an equity issue to raise £100m. In a statement, it said it is “pleased by the level of interest shown by investors during pre-marketing last week, with indications of interest in excess of three times the size of the proposed capital raising”.
The proposed capital raising was initially delayed as a result of a technical issue on Thursday evening, which was resolved on Friday morning with the co-operation of the UK Listing Authority. The retailer said: “The company would like to make it clear that the UK Listing Authority did not block the process as incorrectly reported in the press.”
During Friday, the retailer said it was made aware of rumours circulating in the press and financial markets in relation to Sir David Jones’ personal financial affairs and decided to delay the proposed capital raising until it investigated the claims.
It said: “The board has now concluded its investigation and found these rumours to be totally unfounded. The board is very concerned by the timing and concerted nature of these rumours and has passed on full details, with the results of its investigation, to the relevant regulatory authorities.”
According to The Sunday Times, the unfounded rumours centred on purported evidence that Jayne Sharpe, daughter of Dave Whelan – former chief executive of JJB – made payments into Jones’s bank account.
Any transactions between the Jones and Whelan families would be controversial because Whelan recently won a competitive bid to buy JJB’s health clubs division.
JJB senior independent director John Clare was told of the allegations and launched an investigation and Jones’s bank statements were provided to prove his innocence. There was no evidence of any payment and the alleged dates did not correspond.
JJB said today: “The board remains fully supportive of Sir David Jones and committed to proceeding with a capital raising.”
Jones has been embroiled in speculation since he found himself at the centre of controversy regarding a £1.5m loan from rival Mike Ashley. When the loan came to light he repaid it.
Both JJB and Sports Direct are being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office and Office of Fair Trading for alleged price-fixing.
Separately, according to The Independent, the former chief executive of Woolworths, Steve Johnson, has been approached by advisers to JJB about becoming its new chief executive.