The embattled sportswear market is this week heading for a major shake-up as the future of JJB Sports and Blacks Leisure remains unclear.
As Retail Week went to press, JJB Sports’ standstill agreement with its banks was scheduled to conclude. Industry sources said that banks are unlikely to pull the plug on JJB. It is understood they will give JJB time to complete the sale of its health clubs chain.
The chain – which is believed to be worth around£100m – could fetch as little as half that amount if a sale is agreed.
A decision on the future of JJB chief executive Chris Ronnie, who is currently suspended over a shares controversy, is also expected to be made imminently. It is thought he will leave the business following an investigation into a share transfer of his jointly owned stake in JJB.
This week JJB confirmed that it had received interest in its health clubs division. It appointed KPMG as administrator to its Lifestyle arm, which includes Qube and Original Shoe Company (OSC). The move will affect about 800 jobs.
Billionaire Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley has been linked to the sale of the health clubs. Sources said that Ashley would be interested in the retail parts of JJB’s health clubs division, which could be sold as part of the health clubs deal or run separately.
Also, as revealed by RW Online, Ashley is understood to have made a preliminary approach for blacks” class=”intextlink”>Blacks Leisure along with private equity firm Lion Capital.
Lion Capital owns lingerie retailer La Senza and AS Adventure Group, which runs the Cotswold Outdoor chain. Blacks would run comfortably next to Lion’s Cotswold chain and there would be opportunities for Ashley to integrate the business into his Sports Direct chain.
Ashley is a 29.4 per cent stakeholder in Blacks. He has previously lambasted the efforts of its management, saying that trials of its new-format stores at London’s Holborn and High Street Kensington were misjudged. “They are not very representative of the country,” he said last year.
Neither Sports Direct nor Lion Capital would comment on the Blacks speculation.