Blacks chief executive set to leave in wake of JD Sports takeover

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The Independent Online

Julia Reynolds, the chief executive of Blacks Leisure, is set to leave the outdoor retail specialist following its acquisition in January by JD Sports Fashion.

The sportswear group refused to comment last night on speculation that Ms Reynolds, the former head of the online lingerie retailer Figleaves, will leave the operator of the Blacks and Millets chains in coming months.

The reasons for Ms Reynolds' exit are thought to relate to the likelihood that once the heavy lifting of the integration between the two groups is completed, the role of chief executive of Blacks will be different.

The expected departure of Ms Reynolds, who joined Blacks as chief executive in August, is the latest development in a tumultuous four months for the outdoor group, which JD bought out of administration for £20m on 9 January.

Since then JD, which operates the eponymous chain and brands including Size?, Bank and Scotts, has closed more than 80 of the 290 Blacks and Millets stores it bought.

The bigger Millets chain has borne the brunt of these closures, fuelling speculation in the outdoor industry that JD may ultimately just keep the Blacks brand on the high street.

But sources close to JD said any speculation about Millets' future was premature.

The acquisition of Blacks took its toll on JD's full-year results. Pre-tax profits fell by 6.9 per cent to £75.96m over the year to 28 January, including a £2.2m operating loss from nearly three weeks of trading at Blacks.

JD commented in April: "The Blacks business was in a very fractured state on acquisition. We inherited a limited and unbalanced stock position, with a particularly severe lack of stocks in many core high-performing lines. The management team is investing a significant amount of time on developing relationships with the key brands and getting stocks flowing again."

Dragged down by an ill-fated venture into boardwear and a weak store estate, Blacks had suffered several years of losses before it called in KPMG as administrators in early January.

On a buoyant day on the markets, shares in JD rose by 21p to 841p.