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Jack Wills sold to Sports Direct

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct has acquired lifestyle retailer Jack Wills for £12.8m in a pre-pack administration deal.

Will Wright and Chris Pole from restructuring firm KPMG were appointed as joint administrators of Jack Wills today (5 August) and immediately sold the brand and UK trading assets to Sports Direct International.

All 100 Jack Wills stores in the UK and Ireland, as well as the distribution centre, will be transferred to Sports Direct, along with all 1,700 employees.

Jack Wills said the company’s directors are currently assessing options for the international arm of the business. It has six franchised stores across Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the Channel Islands, as well as an established ecommerce channel serving 130 countries. 

Suzanne Harlow, chief executive of Jack Wills, 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.”

KPMG’s Wright 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.”

Last week it was reported that Sports Direct and Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, which is owned by Philip Day, were locked in a two-way bidding war for the business. 

It comes after Jack Wills appointed KPMG to carry out a review of the business and explore future opportunities last month.

An investment teaser, prepared by KPMG and seen by Drapers, was been sent out to the marketplace to coax bids. The document outlined an investment overview and potential opportunities for the new buyer. 

It stated: “The current investors believe the business can benefit from being part of a larger platform and would welcome the opportunity to retain a minority stake, which allows them to realise value from their investment to date.”

In a turbulent year for the fashion retailer, founder Peter Williams was ousted from Jack Wills in August 2018 and former Debenhams executive director Suzanne Harlow took over as CEO the following month.

Jack Wills had a pre-tax loss of £29.3m on sales of £139.5m in the year to 31 January 2018. It currently has around 100 standalone stores across the UK, Ireland, the US, Hong Kong and Singapore.

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Readers' comments (4)

  • One only can hope he does not regret it again. Good luck for the staff.

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  • I fear for staff. History indicates that they will now strong arm landlords to reduce rents. I'd be surprised if he hasn't closed at least a third of the stores in a few months quietly

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  • darren hoggett

    Unless there is more to this sale than meets the eye, this 'deal' makes little sense. Jack Wills was already lacking desirability, compounded by an appalling set of accounts, so how does the allure of Sports Direct make the brand attractive again?

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  • How can KPMG just flog it off in a pre-pack admin?
    Somebody is making a quick buck here-it certainly won't be the suppliers-unless they have a big stock of Jack Will 3/4 pants to flog.

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