Up to 4,000 workers face possible unemployment after JJB Sports calls in the administrators

Retailer's shares, which had in the past been worth £10 a piece, were today suspended and the company's remaining investors will see their holdings wiped out

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The Independent Online

JJB Sports, once one of Britain's biggest sports retailers, today announced it is calling in the administrators, leaving up to 4,000 workers facing possible unemployment.

The retailer's shares, which had in the past been worth £10 a piece, were today suspended and the company's remaining investors will see their holdings wiped out.

Shares in the company have slumped 93% this year alone after shareholders refused to put up any further cash to save the company.

The retailer is set to appoint KPMG as administrators in the next few days, prompting further questions over the running of the company in recent years.

In just five years the business has gone from being one of the biggest sellers of sportswear on the high street to accruing mounting losses and high debt levels.

It is thought as many as half of the 180 stores are expected to close in a so-called pre-pack sale process.

The move threatens a large number of the 4,000 jobs at the firm.

Former Blackburn Rovers footballer, Dave Whelan, bought a single shop in Wigan in 1971 before expanding to more than 400 stores by 2007.

Mr Whelan sold his family's holding in 2007 for £190m to Icelandic financial group Exista and Chris Ronnie, who previously worked at Umbro and Sports World owner Sports Direct.

The consumer spending squeeze, triggered by the financial crisis, has hit the company hard. This, along with the rising fortunes of rivals Sports Direct and JD Sports meant that by 2008 the company was in a battle for survival.

A major restructuring and refinancing followed with its two loss-making leisure footwear brands, OSC and Qube, being placed into administration. The company also sold its fitness clubs to Mr Whelan's DW Sports for £83.4 million.

Dire trading results over Britain's summer of sport left the company asking for a cash injection from shareholders, which they refused on this occasion.

The group has been through six chairmen in the last four years, covering a period in which it also incorrectly applied VAT to children's clothing, resulting in a £5 million tax liability.

And despite numerous fundraisings and closing half of its stores, it has been unable to revive fortunes.

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley's Sports Direct business is seen as favourite to pick up a large chunk of the business, although the number of stores will depend on the stance of the competition watchdog.

In a statement, JJB said: "The board has determined that any sale of the trade, assets and brands will be effected through an administration process.

"Therefore it is expected that the process to commence the appointment of administrators of the company and certain of its subsidiaries will begin today although the actual appointments are only likely to take effect just before the completion of any such sale."