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Sports Direct sells Dunlop to Japanese buyer in £112m deal

Lauretta Roberts
28 December 2016

Mike Ashley's Sports Direct has sold sportswear brand Dunlop to Japanese group Sumitomo Rubber Industries saying it plans to focus on its core UK business.

Sumitomo has paid $137.5m for the the trademark rights to the Dunlop brand overseas, as well as its sporting goods and licensing businesses. The deal is expected to complete by May but it is subject to approval by competition authorities in the Philippines and Germany.

According to The Times Sports Direct, which has had a tumultuous year amid criticism of its treatment of workers and weak trading, said it did not have "the bandwidth" to develop a global brand such as Dunlop and was focusing on its UK business and developing relationships with third party brands.

Sports Direct acquired Dunlop Slazenger in 2004 from the Royal Bank of Scotland for around £40m. The bank had taken control of the business from private equity owners Cinven.

The sportswear arm of Dunlop, which manufactures equipment for golf, tennis, squash and badminton, was born out of the Dunlop rubber tyre business (it was originally known as the Pneumatic Tyre and Booth's Cycle Agency Co Ltd and became Dunlop a few years later) which was founded in 1889 and named after John Boyd Dunlop, a Scottish veterinary surgeon living in Ireland who discovered the pneumatic tyre principle.

Dunlop began making sports equipment in 1910 and its iconic "Green Flash" plimsolls first appeared in 1933. Known for their style and grip the shoes became popular with leading sportsmen and women and tennis great Fred Perry wore Green Flash when he won Wimbledon in 1934, 1935 and 1936. Available in lace and velcro versions (and in a navy blue option) they are still among the most popular sports shoes in the world and are favoured by retro sneaker enthusiasts.

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