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Business News

JJB Sports' Whelan cools off on pies as he sells Pooles of Wigan to ex-rival

JJB Sports' founder, Dave Whelan, has had his fill of pies, selling his Pooles of Wigan pies business to Neil Court-Johnston, the former boss of rival Holland's Pies, in a £5m deal.

Mr Court-Johnston took control of the Wigan-based Pooles for £3m in cash plus a working capital loan of £2m from Mr Whelan. The deal comes at an interesting time for the business as controversy over VAT changes which are likely to hit pie and pastie makers mounts.

In what critics are calling one of the most half-baked pieces of law-making from a British government, hot pies, pasties and other pastries could become liable for VAT. But this will depend on the ambient temperature. Sources close to the deal denied that "piegate" was the reason behind the decision by Mr Whelan, Britain's 40th-richest man, to sell up.

He said that in Mr Court-Johnston he had found "the right man for the job" of stewarding the company.

"In Neil, I feel I am handing over the reins to someone with the necessary ambition, talent and know-how to lead a bright new phase of growth for this proud and well-respected business," Mr Whelan said. Mr Court-Johnston, whose CV is littered with blue-chip food names including Kraft, Nestlé and Northern Foods, described himself as "thrilled" with the deal.