Clock runs down for sports giants future

Jacquie Shaw of the NMRN

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National sportswear chain JJB Sports is to call in administrators KPMG.

The chain, which has shops in Cascades Shopping Centre, Waterlooville precinct and Fareham Shopping Centre, was once the biggest sports retailer in the UK.

Just five years ago, JJB’s shares were worth £10 a piece but the stock has been suspended and remaining investors - including Microsoft magnate Bill Gates - will see their holdings wiped out.

As many as half of its 180 stores are expected to close in a so-called pre-pack sale process once administrators are appointed.

Around 4,000 people are employed by the firm.

JJB was begun by former Blackburn Rovers footballer and Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan, who bought a single store in Wigan in 1971.

An aggressive expansion drive saw it climb to more than 400 stores by 2007, when it was sold for £190m o a joint venture formed by Icelandic financial group Exista and Chris Ronnie, who previously worked at Umbro and Sports World owner Sports Direct.

The group was hit hard by the credit crunch, and the stellar performance of rivals Sports Direct and JD Sports.

By late 2008 it was in a battle for survival.

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 debt to the tax man.

Despite refinancing and closing half of its stores, as well as being put up for sale, it has been unable to revive fortunes.

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.’