Struggling JJB puts out the 'for sale' sign

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The Independent Online

The next chapter in the tortured history of JJB Sports came yesterday when the beleaguered chain put itself up for sale. This follows several years of crisis that have seen about £200m pumped into the company, mostly from a small number of shareholders who retained faith in the business until very recently.

They include Invesco Perpetual, where star fund manager Neil Woodford built up a 34 per cent stake, the US company Harris Associates with 16 per cent, and the Bill and Melinda Gates charity foundation, which has 5 per cent. The value of those holdings is likely to be wiped out. The US sports retail giant Dick's Sporting Goods put in £20m just months ago, but has already written this off.

JJB has been buffetted by high street strife, fierce competition from its powerful rival Sports Direct, and almost perpetual management reshuffling.

It said yesterday that with trading still deteriorating, further funds were going to be needed sooner rather than later, and that the directors "do not believe that the company will be able to raise the level of funds required".

KPMG has been appointed to handle a sale, although there can be "no assurance that any proposal or offer that may be made would attribute value to the … shares".

Those shares plunged 1.98p to 0.39p following the statement.

Kate Calvert at Seymour Pierce said: "Given the level of debt (£16.5m) already within the business, management has stated that there may not be enough funds to attribute a value to the shares. We reiterate our Sell recommendation and cut our target price to 0p (previously 5p)."

The Wigan-based JJB has 180 stores and employs 4,000 people. It has been involved in a long-running survival battle after a slump in sales and a string of profit warnings.

JJB's history goes back to 1971, when the former Blackburn Rovers footballer Dave Whelan started the business with one store. He floated it on the stock market in 1994, later selling it for a huge fortune.

David McCorquodale, the corporate finance partner at KPMG who is leading the sale process, said: "While it is very early days, I anticipate significant interest in the opportunity to acquire this leading multi-channel authentic sports retailer."