JJB Sports executive chairman Sir David Jones reportedly held sensitive talks about company business with rival sportswear boss Mike Ashley when his secret £1.5m personal loan from Ashley could have been called in.

Jones met Ashley, the Sports Direct founder, in late February to discuss the severance package of Chris Ronnie, JJB Sports’ suspended chief executive, who is a close friend and former employee of Mr Ashley, The Times reported.

News of the highly unusual talks will reignite the controversy over Jones’s loan in the run-up to the retailer’s annual meeting on Friday because of the possibility that the overdue debt could have created a conflict of interests in the negotiations.

In a letter to The Times yesterday, JJB Sports’ lawyers said: “Sir David Jones was in no way compromised by his dealings with Mr Ashley and Mr Ronnie because of the existence of the business loan from Mr Ashley.”

JJB Sports released a statement this month asserting that the loan did not create a conflict; however news that Jones — a well-respected veteran retailer who formerly ran Next — took a personal loan from his rival has raised eyebrows in the City. The loan was originally interest-free.