Blacks chief executive Neil Gillis must feel like a mountain walker approaching the summit only to find there’s a steep rock face still to climb.

Blacks chief executive Neil Gillis must feel like a mountain walker approaching the summit only to find there’s a steep rock face still to climb.

After successfully pulling off a CVA enabling him effectively to relaunch the business around a profitable core, he was ready to complete a £21m fundraising to accelerate his plans. But Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley, the kingpin and would-be kingmaker in the sector, had other plans. He used his stake in Blacks to scupper the fundraising plans and may now bid for control of his rival.

Despite Blacks’ original proposals being blown off course, Ashley’s intervention may not be bad news.

As broker Numis points out, it might even be a win-win situation: either Sports Direct makes an acceptable offer, or Blacks raises the money for improvements by modifying the procedure as it has signalled it will.

But some questions remain. First, would a deal make sense for Sports Direct shareholders? The scale of the integration of Blacks could consume a lot of management time. While Sports Direct has been more popular among investors lately, there have been enough thrills and spills in its short life as a public company to arouse fears that chasing Blacks could end up simply being a distraction from keeping the core business on track.

The second question is whether, even if it was deemed acceptable, a Sports Direct offer may undervalue the potential of Blacks now that foundations for improvement have been laid. Blacks shareholders have taken plenty of pain as problems afflicted the retailer and must be hopeful that, after the CVA, a decent business can be built.

The huge popularity of walking and other outdoor pursuits means there must be an opportunity for a specialist retailer to thrive - the fact that groups such as Halfords have pushed into the category shows it has wide appeal. After their uphill slog, will Blacks investors have the energy to go for the summit or take Ashley’s money and simply enjoy the view?