Chris Ronnie, the former JJB chief executive found guilty of illegally pocketing nearly £1m from suppliers, has been sentenced at Southwark Crown Court to four years in prison and banned from being a company director for eight years.
The former retail boss was convicted in November of making a false statement of his assets. He was found to have accepted a six-figure sum in undisclosed payments linked to business transactions while in charge of the sports chain between August 2007 and March 2009, which went into administration in 2012.
A single payment to Seacroft, a company associated with Ronnie, and a further two in his personal accounts were received from sports goods supplier Performance Brands and another supplier, Fashion and Sport, ranging between £197,000 and £650,000 over a nine month period.
At a sentence hearing on Friday, later postponed to Monday by Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith, the prosecution said Ronnie had carried out “significant planning” to defraud the ailing company.
He also amassed debts of £11m with Kaupthing Singer Friedlander after the Icelandic bank funded his acquisition of a 30% stake in JJB. An application for confiscation will be determined in spring 2015.
Miranda Moore QC, who prosecuted Ronnie for the Serious Fraud Office, told Drapers: “You never set out with a sentence in mind but four years is fair. It was an incredibly greedy act and one [Ronnie] took with the perception that no one would find out.”
Ronnie’s business partners and co-defendants David Ball and David Barrington, who both worked for companies supplying stock to JJB and were found guilty of helping to cover his tracks, were also sentenced to 18 months in prison each and ordered to repay a combined £80,000 towards prosecution costs.
All three are expected to serve at least half of their sentences but Ball and Barrington could be released even earlier on a tagging system.
The Serious Fraud Office launched an investigation into the business in 2009. In 2013 a computer engineer revealed he was asked by David Ball and David Barrington, who worked for companies supplying stock to JJB, to delete emails containing details of deals with Ronnie.
Ronnie’s defence said the father-of-three’s life had been in ruins after the collapse of JJB in 2012 and his mental state has since deteriorated, with signs of severe depression. Ronnie did not give evidence, but denied all charges.