Whelan buys JJB's gym clubs for £83m

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The Independent Online

Dave Whelan, the founder of JJB Sports, acquired the beleaguered sportswear retailer's fitness clubs for £83.4m yesterday as JJB revealed a series of dramatic restructuring measures to try to stave off collapse.

The retailer has dismissed its former chief executive, Chris Ronnie, and also revealed a wide-ranging company voluntary arrangement, which requires the approval of landlords.

The company said all its March quarterly rents will be paid in full, but following this JJB will propose a CVA on about 140 closed retail stores, and temporarily vary the terms of the leases of about 250 open retail stores to permit monthly rent payments.

JJB plans to use the proceeds from the gym sale to reduce its debts of £60m and fund its short-term working capital requirements.

Mr Whelan confirmed his acquisition of the fitness clubs at a press conference for the renaming of Wigan Football Club's JJB Stadium yesterday afternoon. The stadium will be called DW Stadium, reflecting the name of his new business, DW Sports Fitness.

Sir David Jones, JJB's executive chairman, said: "In announcing our series of measures today, we have taken the first step in securing JJB's long-term future after months of speculation. We have worked very hard with our advisers and lending banks to propose a robust, solvent restructuring of the group that we believe is in the best interests of all our stakeholders."

JJB also revealed dreadful recent trading. For the 10 weeks to 23 March, total group like-for-like sales were 18.5 per cent lower than the same period last year.

JJB said David Madeley has resigned as finance director. It has appointed Richard Manning as legal director and company secretary.

This year, JJB promoted Sir David Jones, who rescued the fashion retailer Next, to executive chairman. It also hired Peter Williams, the former chief executive of Selfridges, as executive director responsible for strategic development.