Sports Direct buys Jack Wills out of administration for £12.75m

Jack Wills

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct business has bought Jack Wills for £12.75m after the troubled fashion chain went into administration on Monday.

The high street giant has acquired all of Jack Wills’ stock, its distribution centre and 100 stores and employees across the UK and Republic of Ireland.

It is part of a so-called pre-pack administration deal – a buyout tactic frequently used by Mr Ashley in expanding his retail empire.

The deal was disclosed after the stock market close.

Alternative options are being considered by directors for Jack Wills’ international business, which includes stores in the US, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The company employs approximately 1,700 staff across the business and also has six franchised stores across Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the Channel Islands, as well as an e-commerce channel serving 130 countries.

Confirmation of Jack Wills’ sale to Sports Direct comes a day after Sky News reported that owner Mike Ashley had become the preferred bidder for the fashion group, whose owner, the investment firm BlueGem, had been seeking a buyer for the last month.

Administrators KPMG said on Monday: “Like many other retailers, the company had recently experienced mounting cash flow pressures amidst some of the most difficult trading conditions seen on the high street in years.”

Jack Wills made an annual operating loss of £14.2m for the year to 28 January 2018, and had already received more than £20m in additional funding to keep it afloat during the last year.

Sky News revealed on Friday that Sports Direct and Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, headed by ‎rival billionaire Philip Day, were locked in a two-way fight to buy Jack Wills.

The acquisition comes a year after Mr Ashley bought the House of Fraser fashion retail chain in a pre-pack administration, again beating Mr Day to the deal.

Mr Day’s vehicle, Spectre, recently took over women’s fashion chain Bonmarche.

Will Wright, partner at KPMG and joint administrator, said: “Jack Wills has a strong brand and proud British heritage, so it is pleasing to have been able to secure this agreement with Sports Direct.”

Suzanne Harlow, Jack Wills’ chief executive, said: “For the past year, we have been focused on improving the Jack Wills proposition and the group’s financial performance.

“Despite significant progress, the challenging trading environment led us to conclude that the company’s long-term future would be best served as part of a larger group and Sports Direct will enable us to do this.”

In the last 12 months, Mr Ashley has also engineered takeovers of Evans Cycles and

But his attempts to acquire Debenhams, HMV and cafe chain Patisserie Valerie were unsuccessful.

Mr Ashley’s retail empire also owns stakes in French Connection and Goals Soccer Centres.