Final whistle as sportswear firm calls in receivers
DOZENS of jobs in the Bristol area are under threat after the recession claimed its latest victim on the high street.
JJB Sports, which has branches in Abbey Wood and Cabot Circus, announced yesterday that it was calling in the receivers.
A third shop at the Avon Meads retail park in St George has already closed its doors.
Some stores or other assets could be sold on by receivers to other firms, with Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley's Sports Direct brand a possible buyer. But it leaves staff uncertain of their future.
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The firm has been struggling to survive for years and yesterday it appeared to have given up battle.
The company is the latest in a series of big name casualties to have been felled by the recession and the on-going struggles of the retail sector. Other big names to have been hit have included Woolworth, T J Hughes, Habitat and the Focus DIY chain.
The problems facing JJB Sports have been well documented and the company has gone from being the country's biggest sports retailer to the point of collapse in the space of just five years.
The firm said yesterday it expected to call in administrators from accountancy firm KPMG over the next few days.
According to experts in the retail sector as many as half of the firm's 180 stores are expected to close within a matter of weeks as a result of the collapse.
The closures are expected to be part of a controversial pre-pack deal. The deal will see the firm closed and many of its branches relaunched with its debts wiped out.
As well as leaving creditors empty- handed the deal will also leave a big question mark hanging over a large proportion of the 4,000 jobs at the firm.
JJB's 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.
He then launched an aggressive expansion drive which saw it climb to more than 400 stores by 2007.
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 by the squeeze on consumer spending triggered by the financial crisis and by the performance of rivals Sports Direct and JD Sports.
Despite numerous rounds of fundraising and closing half of its stores, 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."
The original store was established by JJ Broughton in the early 1900s and was bought by JJ Braddock and then JJ Bradburn.
Mr Whelan, who had previously sold a discount store business to Morrisons founder Ken Morrison, maintained the JJB name and grew the business to 120 stores in 1994 when the company was floated on the Stock Exchange.