JD Sports seals £20m Blacks deal


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The Independent Online

Sportswear firm JD Sports Fashion has bought all of Blacks Leisure's 290 stores out of administration for £20 million.

JD Sports bought the stores, which trade under the Blacks and Millets names, and the bulk of the rest of the business immediately after Blacks Leisure was put into administration.

JD Sports, whose largest shareholder is Berghaus owner Pentland Capital, has beaten Dragons' Den star Peter Jones, rival Sports Direct, which is owned by Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, and outdoor retailer Trespass to land the stores.

Blacks appointed KPMG as administrator earlier as it admitted it has failed to find an outright buyer after putting itself up for sale following dire trading.

Blacks employed some 3,500 staff who it is understood will keep their jobs at least for the time being but redundancies are thought to be inevitable.

Its new owner said it will evaluate the performance of each store before it decides how many to close. The likely fate of Blacks' Northampton-based head office and warehouse was unclear today.

JD executive chairman Peter Cowgill said he hopes to restore Blacks to its profitable, market-leading position as it rejuvenates the offer, closes loss-making stores and makes cost savings.

The deal means that the stores, the stock, and the brands including Eurohike and Peter Storm will be transferred to JD Sports but its debts of more than £30 million will be scrapped.

The process of selling businesses through pre-pack administrations is controversial because creditors do not have the opportunity to vote against the proposed asset sale. Shares in the company were suspended last week.

JD said the deal would lead to a "minor reduction" in its earnings in the year to January 28 but it anticipates the following year's figures will not be materially affected.

The Bury-based firm has around 350 JD Sports and size? outlets in the UK, plus more than 120 fashion stores under the Bank, Scotts and Cecil Gee names. In 2009 it bought rugby brands Canterbury and Canterbury of New Zealand, as well as The Duffer of St. George and Kooga Rugby brands.

Other names in the Pentland portfolio include Lacoste, Speedo, Mitre, Ellesse and Kickers UK.