Fears for hundreds of jobs after Mike Ashley's Sports Direct buys out Evans Cycles

Evans Cycles has been sold to Sports Direct Credit: Philip Toscano/PA

Hundreds of jobs are under threat at cycling retailer Evans Cycles after the company’s new owner Sports Direct said as many as half the stores could close.

The chain, which has 62 stores in the UK, currently employs 1,300 staff.

The company, which had been seeking a buyer, went into administration on Tuesday and was then immediately sold in a process sometimes known as a "pre-pack".

Sports Direct chief executive Mike Ashley said: "We are pleased to have rescued the Evans Cycles brand."

"However, in order to save the business we only believe we will be able to keep 50% of stores open in the future. Unfortunately some stores will have to close."

The acquisition marks the latest expansion of Mr Ashley’s high street empire following the takeover of House of Fraser earlier this year.

The retail entrepreneur has also been rumoured to merge House of Fraser with its rival department store Debenhams.

Mike Ashley is a British billionaire retail entrepreneur. Credit: PA

Landlords of Evans sites will be contacted over the next few days to discuss the future of individual stores.

It emerged Evans was eyeing a rescue deal in September, when the retailer held talks with its lenders to seek an urgent capital injection.

Advisers at PwC were then brought in to oversee a sales process, with Halfords and JD Sports also touted as potential buyers.

Matt Callaghan, joint administrator and PwC partner, said: "2018 has been a very difficult trading year for the business, in part due to the impact of the extended winter weather in the early part of the year and a lack of cash to invest in stores and develop the online platform.

"A combination of losses, the capital expenditure requirements and tightening credit has led to a liquidity crunch."