Ashley closes in on Black Leisure

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The Independent Online

The sportswear giant Sports Direct is among four trader buyers piecing together final-round bids for Blacks Leisure, the embattled outdoor retail specialist.

Ahead of tomorrow's deadline, Mike Ashley-controlled Sports Direct is gunning for the entire business of Blacks Leisure, which has debts of £36m and operates 98 Blacks and 208 Millets stores.

While a sale to a trade player is likely to save many of its 3,500 jobs, Blacks is expected to be rescued through a pre-packaged administration that will see its debts wiped out and its worst-performing stores closed. The new owner is also likely to scale back Blacks Leisure's head office and warehouse in Northampton. Sports Direct owns 22.5 per cent of Blacks Leisure. The identity of the other three trade purchasers is unclear.