JD Sports says no to rescue for stricken JJB

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The Independent Online

Peter Cowgill, the executive chairman of JD Sports Fashion, has washed his hands of stricken rival JJB Sports and put its woes down to "poor management".

JJB is expected to be snapped up by Mike Ashley's Sports Direct this week after a pre-pack administration, with many of its 180 stores closed and possibly 2,000 jobs lost. Mr Cowgill said JD Sports – at the fashionable end of the sportswear market – was not interested in JJB even if competition regulators scuppered the Newcastle United owner's move.

"We made a decision that we would focus on our own stores and our own proposition," he said. JJB "had suffered at the hands of poor management over a long period" and had been "squeezed between Mike Ashley and us".

"It has been very difficult in the middle market. It's had £350m put in, two CVAs [company voluntary arrangements with landlords] and they've ended up with nothing."

Mr Cowgill also has his hands full turning around another failed retailer, after buying Blacks Leisure out of administration in January. As expected, Blacks recorded a loss of £10m in the first three months as JD restored broken supply lines and cut costs, slicing pre-tax profits for the six months to 28 July from £16m to £2.9m. Blacks is aiming to break even in the second half.

Trading has been more difficult for JD Sports' fashion brands, and Mr Cowgill said he would be "foolish not to be concerned". JD Sports shares fell 13p to 718.5p.