The owner of the Republic's biggest sports retailer has emerged as a contender to buy all or part of ailing JJB Sports, which is up for sale as it sits on the brink of administration.
Stafford Group, which bought Lifestyle Sports, the owner of 62 stores across Ireland including three in Northern Ireland, in 2005 for €60m (£48m), is among about half a dozen bidders left in contention, Sky News said.
Dublin-based Stafford Group is a family-owned private company with 950 staff and a turnover of €500m (£400m), which operates in the energy and shipping sectors, as well as sports retail.
Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct International, is reportedly the frontrunner to buy the most profitable stores from JJB under a controversial "pre-pack" administration.
But it is likely the Office of Fair Trading will launch a probe into any attempt by Sports Direct to buy JJB due to competition issues.