Exclusive: Irish Pitch Into JJB Battle
A privately-owned Irish conglomerate has waded into the battle for control of JJB Sports by tabling an offer for the stricken retailer, I have learned.
Dublin-based Stafford Group is among about half a dozen bidders who remain in contention to buy part or all of JJB, which put itself up for sale last month after warning that it would run out of cash.
Stafford Group, which operates in the energy and shipping industries, acquired Lifestyle Sports, the owner of more than 60 shops across in Ireland, for 60m euro in 2005.
Taking control of JJB is likely to cost only a nominal sum of money but transforming its performance will require substantial investment.
Stafford Group faces stiff competition to buy the Wigan-based chain, which has been through several restructurings and rescue cash injections in recent years.
Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct and owner of Newcastle United FC, has been reported to be the frontrunner to buy JJB, although he could be blocked by the competition authorities.
People close to the situation said that GA Europe and Hilco, two restructuring specialists, had also tabled offers. Dick's Sporting Goods, the US retailer which earlier this year bought a small stake in JJB, JD Sports and Hargreaves, another retailer, have all also lodged their interest.
Some of the bidders are proposing to take control of JJB through what is known as a 'pre-pack administration', which allows a buyer to acquire only the profitable stores. That could threaten thousands of jobs elsewhere at JJB.
The retailer's directors hope to strike a deal this week.
JJB, which has changed its chief executive in recent weeks, has been hit hard by the intense competition from the likes of Mr Ashley, and failed to meet sales targets during the crucial Euro 2012 trading period.
This morning, however, JD Sports underlined the stronger performance of JJB's rivals, announcing a 26% rise in half-year revenues (partly skewed by the impact of acquisitions) and profits in line with the City's expectations.
JJB declined to comment further on the sale process.