Fraud trial told ex-JJB boss had huge debts
Gambling 'could have been behind' Jones's decision to borrow from rivals
Sir David Jones may have been forced to borrow £3m from two other leading figures in the world of retail including his rival, Sports Direct founder and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, because of huge gambling debts, a court heard yesterday.
The former executive chairman of JJB Sports, which collapsed in 2012, went on trial accused of making false market statements in relation to the receipt of two £1.5m personal loans. The second was from Dave Whelan – the founder of JJB Sports and owner of Wigan Athletic football club – who subsequently left the business, it was claimed.
The opening of the fraud trial at Leeds Crown Court heard that Sir David, who helped turnaround then struggling retailer Next in the 1990s, was one of the industry's most respected figures.
Outlining the case for the prosecution, Miranda Moore QC said the charges related to a time when he became executive chairman of JJB in 2009.
She said he had enjoyed "much acclaim, quite rightly, for turning around the fortunes of Next" – now one of the high-street's top performers.
He was appointed by a board which considered him to be "good man at the helm" of the sports chain.
"He was a man respected in the industry – well known as a retailer of good repute," she said. "Unfortunately, what the board of JJB did not know was that Sir David Jones was heavily in debt, possibly due to gambling, and he would, just after his appointment, take out substantial loans from two people who could be regarded as JJB competitors."
Sir David, 71, of Ilkley, West Yorkshire, is a long-time sufferer from Parkinson's and the judge, Guy Kearl QC, explained to the jury of seven women and five men that his involuntary movements as he sat in the dock were a symptom of the degenerative condition.
Sir David, who wore a suit and an open-neck pink shirt, was supported by his son, Stuart, who is also on trial.
The prosecution was only able to outline the opening of the case for 20 minutes before proceedings were halted by the judge because of Sir David's medical condition.
Judge Kearl said: "As you know, Sir David Jones suffers from Parkinson's disease.
"There will be times when he's simply unable to follow the course of proceedings. When that happens, it's not right, it's not fair, it's not proper to continue the trial at this stage. I emphasise, this is not his fault. It is the fault of the condition he has."
He said that, at times, he would not be able to follow the case and proceedings would have to be adjourned to allow him to rest or receive medication. The court will sit exceptionally short hours to allow for the management of Sir David's condition, he added.
Sir David denies two charges of making a misleading statement, contrary to the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, and one of using a false instrument, contrary to the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981.
Stuart Jones, 39, of Bingley, West Yorkshire, denies one charge of aiding and abetting his father's use of a false instrument.
JJB Sports collapsed after restructuring attempts failed, leaving it with £150m of debts. An estimated 2,200 staff were made redundant at the time. Fresh details could emerge as the case continues.
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