Tycoon Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct has bought a majority stake in Sir Tom Hunter’s branded fashion business USC and luxury retailer Cruise Clothing as it extends its retail reach.

Sports Direct acquired an 80% stake for £7m and Hunter will remain a “significant investor” and be chairman of USC and Cruise.

The deal gives Sports Direct access to a more diverse customer base and the retailer has established a premium and luxury lifestyle division to reflect that.

USC has 38 stores across generated sales in the 12 months to 30 January 2011 of £70 m.  Cruise has 10 stores in the UK and annual turnover of £20 million. 

Sports Direct chief executive Dave Forsey said: “We are pleased to be taking this opportunity to work with Tom and his teams in the premium and luxury sector of the market. 

“While USC and Cruise will remain independent of Sports Direct, we will support the businesses with our operational expertise.”

Hunter said: “This deal will transform the prospects for both USC and Cruise and our employees at a time of extraordinary turbulence in the high street.”