Bentley named non-executive director
Mike Ashley is to go ahead with plans to float Sports Direct, the UK's largest sportswear company.

The indicative offer price range is 250p to 310p an ordinary share, which would suggest that Sports Direct has an equity value of between£1.8 billion and£2.2 billion. The listing is likely to complete by the end of February.

Ashley will sell about 40 per cent of his holding in the group and, as expected, will become deputy executive chairman of the listed business. Former Blacks Leisure chairman and chief executive Simon Bentley has become a non-executive director and former Whitbread finance director David Richardson will join as chairman. Chris Bulmer, former HR director of Brambles Industries and Whitebread, has also been appointed non-executive director. A third independent non-executive director will be hired in due course.

David Forsey, who has worked at Sports Direct for 22 years, has been confirmed as chief executive. Bob Mellors, who has been associated with the business since it was founded, will remain as finance director.

For the nine weeks from October 30 to December 31 last year, sales were£216.6 million, with gross margin at 46.8 per cent on sales of£177.6 million, against gross margin of 41 per cent for the corresponding nine-week period in 2005.

The company said in a statement that trading was strong at present and that gross margin in the UK retail business in the 26 weeks to April 29 would be at least in line with 46.8 per cent.

Sports Direct has 465 stores, 408 of which are in the UK. It operates under several fascias including Sports World, Sports Direct, Original Shoe Company and Lillywhites. It also owns a portfolio of sports and leisure brands including Donnay, Dunlop, Kangol, Karrimor, Lonsdale and Slazenger.

Sports Direct sales for the 26 weeks to October 29 were£720 million. Some£637 million came from the retail division. EBITDA was£83.6 million for the same period.