Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group is reported to have offered administrators £30m to acquire DW Sports, the collapsed sports retail and gym empire of former Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan.
DW Sports was placed into administration earlier this month and it was said that its retail business, which included 50 stores, would be wound down risking 1,700 jobs.
The retail arm had comprised 75 stores but some 25 had already been closed for good. It also owns 73 gyms, the majority of which had reopened after lockdown. Its Fitness First chain was not affected by the administration.
According to the Sunday Times, Frasers Group, administrators BDO had been seeking to secure around £20m for the business and it was believed Whelan’s family might have come back and bought it without its liabilities.
But Ashley’s aggressive offer may keep them out of the picture, a source told the newspaper: “If they thought they were going to get an easy deal, they won’t now, because they’ve got competition.”
Ashley and Whelan, a former professional footballer, have been rivals for years. Whelan had previously owned a stake in JJB Sports. He sold his stake to Ashley’s associate Chris Ronnie in 2007 and formed DW Sports buying up a number of former JJB sites in 2009, after the chain went bust.
Whelan famously tried to discourage Ashley, who owns among a number of other chains, Sports Direct, along with Newcastle United Football Club, from trying to gain a foothold in the North.
Ashley then blew the whistle on price fixing of football shirts which led to JJB being fined by the Office of Fair Trading in 2000.