Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct is selling the rights to tennis brand Dunlop for £112m, as it strives to become “the Selfridges of sports retail”.

The scandal-hit retailer has agreed a sale to Japan-headquartered conglomerate Sumitomo Rubber Industries (SRI). 

SRI already owns the rights to Dunlop in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, and shares the US rights with Sports Direct.

The retailer admitted in a statement that it currently lacks the “bandwidth to develop and manage international brands simultaneously”.

It said shifting this asset formed part of a strategy to prioritise its core UK business and relationships with third-party brands.

Ashley pocketed the brand – then called Dunlop Slazenger – in 2004 for an estimated £40m, as he set about expanding his retail empire.

For the year ended April 24, Dunlop made a pre-tax profit of £4m on sales of £41.8m.

SRI, which owns an array of businesses across a range of sectors and was originally called the Dunlop Rubber Company, has a 60% stake in the 107-year-old tennis brand, which is listed on the Tokyo stock market.

The sale is expected to be completed by end of May 2017.

Profits slashed

Sports Direct, which has come under intense fire over worker conditions and pay at its Shirebrook Warehouse, reported a 57% drop in profits at its half-year results last month.

The retailer attributed this blow to currency headwinds following the EU Referendum and an “extreme political, union and media campaign” waged against the company.

Ashley vowed that his “immediate priority will be to protect the people at Sports Direct”, and said he aims to elevate its sports retail proposition in order to become ”the Selfridges of sports retail”.

In its “tough” half-year, Sports Direct splashed out on a £40m corporate plane.