Belfast Telegraph

Sports Direct's anger at sale of chain to rival

By Jamie Grierson

Sports Direct said yesterday it was disappointed by the sale of Blacks Leisure to its rival JD Sports Fashion and accused suppliers of obstructing its pursuit of the outdoor clothing retailer.

JD Sports confirmed it had bought Blacks Leisure's 290 stores for £20m in a pre-pack administration deal which will protect some 3,500 jobs.

But Sports Direct, founded by Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, said the deal was disappointing given its own bid for Blacks Leisure in 2010 which was dismissed as "inadequate". The total Blacks share value written off amounts to £52.6m, it said.

In addition, Sports Direct said it was unable to offer a higher price for Blacks because suppliers, such as North Face, would not return calls to confirm if it would continue to supply the chain under Sports Direct ownership.

Sports Direct called for an Office of Fair Trading investigation into the outdoor and sports retail markets to ensure they are operating in the best interests of the consumer.

Sports Direct has a fractious history with Blacks Leisure. As well as its failed 2010 bid, it turned down an appeal for an equity fundraising, and was also behind the removal of David Bernstein as chairman last summer.

North Face was not immediately available for comment.