1. ITV Report

Wigan based JJB on brink of administration

JJB Manchester Photo: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Wigan-based JJB Sports, whose best stores are due to be snapped up by its arch rival this week, has gone from market leader to the brink of administration in less than a decade.

Its story of dramatic rise and fall began when former Blackburn Rovers footballer and Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan bought a single store in Wigan in 1971 before an aggressive expansion drive made it the UK's biggest sports retailer with more than 400 stores.

In 2007 Mr Whelan sold his family's holding for £190 million to 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 squeeze on consumer spending triggered by the financial crisis and by the stellar performance of rivals Sports Direct and JD Sports. By late 2008 it was in a battle for survival.

Despite shareholders with deep pockets, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, numerous fundraisings and closing half of its stores, it has been unable to revive fortunes.

It recently put itself up for sale and is expected to be bought by Mike Ashley's Sports Direct International in a pre-pack administration that will see Mr Whelan's former rival take his pick of the best stores in the estate. With up to half of the 180 remaining stores expected to close, any takeover is likely to threaten a large number of the 4,000 jobs at the firm.

JJB secured its most recent lifeline four months ago when it landed £20 million from US retailer Dick's Sporting Goods and a further £10 million from existing shareholders. It earmarked #20 million of the most recent funding on converting 60 of its most important stores in 2012 and 2013 into a new format which during trials produced much-improved sales and margins.

More dire trading despite the UK's summer of sport left the stricken firm asking shareholders for another cash injection, but this time they ran out of patience, finally forcing the group to throw in the towel and put itself up for sale.

Although Sports Direct is seen as a front-runner, accountancy firm KPMG, which is representing JJB, is said to be in talks with other parties. These reportedly include private equity firm OpCapita, which recently salvaged video games retailer Game from administration, while French sporting goods retailer Decathlon could also pounce.

And, in an unlikely twist, Mr Whelan could step in to pick up some of the left-over sites.