JD Sports’ £20m move for Blacks Leisure will safeguard thousands of jobs as administration threat subsides

JD SPORTS last night agreed a £20 million deal to beat off rival bidders for struggling retailer Blacks Leisure.

Sources said JD will be announced as the buyer on Monday in a pre-pack administration in which a purchaser is lined up when it collapses.

JD has beaten off second round bids for the trade, assets and brands of the chain against rival offers from Newcastle United football club owner Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct group and TV Dragons’ Den businessman Peter Jones.

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Others who did not make the second round included Glasgow-based outdoor clothing and equipment group, Trespass, owned by brothers Afzal and Akmal Khushi, and Edinburgh Woollen Mill. They were among ten suitors for Blacks.

It is understood that the offer from JD Sports safeguards the 3,500 jobs at Blacks at risk from a “slash and burn” takeover of the company. However, some job losses are expected, particularly at its head office and warehouse in Northampton, which costs the company around £26m a year.

JD Sports will acquire 300 stores as part of the deal, 100 branded as the more specialist Blacks brand, whose products range from clothing to tents, and 200 in the more middle-range Milletts brand.

There will be no recompense for Blacks’ shareholders, however, who have seen their shares plummet in value after a series of profits warnings from the company.

Blacks admitted before Christmas when it put itself up for sale that any deal would probably leave its shares worthless.

The sale process is being handled by accountants KPMG, which Blacks said in a stock exchange statement yesterday would be appointed administrators.

Blacks said in its statement that for the time being all operating subsidiaries of Blacks will continue to trade through all outlets outside of an administration pending a sale.

One analyst said last night: “It looks like KPMG got the price they wanted and also the assurances on jobs, which is a bonus given the previous uncertainty on what a new owner of the business would do. It is contrary to what a lot of people following this process expected.”