19 September 2012 10:05
The owner of Ireland's biggest sports retailer has been named as a potential contender to buy all or part of the ailing JJB Sports chain, which is up for sale as it sits on the brink of administration.
Stafford Group, which bought Lifestyle Sports, the owner of 62 stores across Ireland, in 2005 for 60 million euros (£48 million), is among about half a dozen bidders left in contention, according to reports from Sky News.
Dublin-based Stafford Group is a family-owned private company with 950 staff and a turnover of 500 million euro (£40 million), which operates in the energy and shipping sectors, as well as sports retail.
Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct International and owner of Newcastle United FC, is reportedly the frontrunner to buy JJB, while restructuring specialists GA Europe and Hilco and US retailer Dick's Sporting Goods have also lodged interest.
Sports World parent Sports Direct is believed to be close to arranging to buy the most profitable stores from JJB under a controversial "pre-pack" administration, which would reportedly see more than half of JJB's 180 stores closed and put hundreds of jobs at risk.
However it is likely the Office of Fair Trading will launch an investigation into any attempt by Sports Direct to buy JJB due to competition issues.
Wigan-based JJB, which employs 4,000 staff, put itself up for sale at the end of last month after failing to secure the funds needed to overhaul its stores.