Exclusive: Moulton Poised For JJB Raid
Jon Moulton, the private equity tycoon, is plotting a secret raid on JJB Sports that could result in him controlling the struggling high street chain.
I can reveal that Better Capital, the listed investment firm headed by Mr Moulton, has approached the board of JJB and Lloyds Banking Group, its principal lender, about buying the company's outstanding debt.
The approaches have been made over a number of weeks and were repeated in recent days. Lloyds rebuffed Better Capital's overtures while JJB is understood to be unwilling to engage ahead of a revised turnaround plan being assembled by Beverley Williams, its interim chief executive.
Ms Williams was appointed last week following the resignation of Keith Jones, who has run JJB since 2010 but failed to stem its decline amid fierce competition from Mike Ashley's Sports Direct and the broader consumer spending downturn.
Mr Moulton, who has spearheaded takeovers of Everest, the double-glazing supplier, Jaeger, the fashion retailer, and Reader's Digest in the three years since launching Better Capital, is not the only predator circling JJB.
Invesco, JJB's largest shareholder, has also been discussing a proposal to buy the debt held by Lloyds, and people close to both the bank and the company say that there have been other expressions of interest.
A number of JJB directors are believed to be pushing for the company to be put into administration because of its entrenched trading difficulties. But bankers at Lloyds are said to be nervous about the idea of putting such a significant employer through another restructuring that would potentially cost at least hundreds of jobs.
JJB has been forced to go cap-in-hand to shareholders several times in recent years but admitted recently that it may need more money to survive. Earlier this year, it recruited Dick's Sporting Goods, the American retailer, as a major shareholder, although it also faces seeing its investment wiped out under some of the restructuring scenarios that many City investors regard as possibilities.
JJB, Better Capital and Lloyds all declined to comment.