Sports Direct has indicated it had been seeking to acquire Office, just two days after it denied it was considering such a move, with chief executive David Forsey claiming Adidas has been blocking a takeover with its “anti-competitive” behaviour.
Two days ago the sports giant issued a statement denying it was looking to make a bid for the footwear retailer.
However today (June 2) chief executive Dave Forsey has claimed its row with Adidas – which has refused to supply World Cup merchandise and replica football shirts – has prevented Sports Direct from pursuing a bid.
He said there were concerns Adidas would cut supplies to Office. He told the Telegraph the footwear retailer, which is currently owned by private equity firm Silverfleet Capital, was “the perfect potential partner” for Sports Direct.
Silverfleet bought the business in 2010 from retail entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter for a reported £150m. To date there has been no publicised bids for the footwear chain.
Office has 99 standalone stores, up from 75 at the time of acquisition. It also operates six Offspring stores and 48 concessions in Selfridges, Topshop, House of Fraser & Harvey Nichols. Office could not be reached as Drapers went to press.
It is understood that Sports Direct has reported Adidas to the Competition and Markets Authority, though Forsey would only say the retailer was “active with the authorities”.
But this marks a complete shift from the statement issued on Monday (June 30), which said: “Notwithstanding recent speculation, Sports Direct confirms that it is not considering an offer to acquire Office.”
Speculation about a bid was “unhelpful to the customers, staff, suppliers and other stakeholders of both companies”, the statement added, insisting the company was focusing on “building brand support for the groups premium lifestyle format – USC/Republic”.
The claims come as Sports Direct’s shareholders voted to approve the latest bonus scheme for founder Mike Ashley and his team at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM)held this morning. The new scheme will reward Ashley and a unknown number of other employees of the company some 25m shares worth £200m.
A spokesman from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said: “We have received no formal complaint from Sports Direct in relation to Adidas, which they would need to do in order for us to investigate. Should we do so we would be happy to investigate”.
Adidas told Drapers that it “has not been contacted by the Competition Group in relation to any of the claims made. There are no live conversations between Adidas and Sports Direct on this issue.”