JJB Sports took another major step along its road to recovery by hiring Keith Jones, the current retail director at Currys owner DSGi, as chief executive yesterday. The sports equipment retailer said Mr Jones, who has been at the electricals group for the past 10 years, will join no later than 1 March.
JJB said it had hired Mr Jones after an "intensive search in recent months" and the appointment follows reports that the company had approached its former chief executive Tom Knight and Steve Johnson, the former boss of Woolworths, about the role. JJB's executive chairman Sir David Jones will now move to chairing the retailer part-time, though he will be hands-on when the DSGi director joins. Keith Jones said: "Now that the group has resolved its financial issues it has a real opportunity to assume leadership in the sports retail sector."
JJB came close to collapsing earlier this year. In March, it sold its fitness clubs division to the retailer's founder, Dave Whelan, for £83.4m. The following month it unveiled a company voluntary arrangement, an insolvency procedure, to ditch 140 unprofitable stores. It then completed £100m fund-raising in October to help it fully replenish its stock levels from the New Year.
Before DSGi, Keith Jones had roles at Virgin and B&Q. At DSGi, he worked under its former chief executive John Clare, who is now a non-executive director at JJB.
James Hyde, a director at Flint Hyde, the executive search firm, said: "He is a good operator with a good reputation. He is very straight talking and has excellent leadership skills which will obviously come in useful with its recovery strategy. I am also sure it has helped having John Clare on the board at JJB as I know he was also a fan."
DSGi said Mr Jones would stay in post through Christmas before being replaced by Sebastian James, who is currently its services director.