CHARLES GRAHAM - A great name about to vanish

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IT was the announcement that had been dreaded but avoided for several years.

But in the end there was an air of sad resignation when confirmation came through that JJB Sports had gone into administration.

A company which a decade ago was valued at a quarter of a billion pounds is now virtually worthless with former owner Dave Whelan reckoning that at best 25 of its 180-plus surviving stores are now making a profit.

I was there 15 years ago when the world’s greatest-ever footballer, Pele, was the surprise guest at the launch of JJB’s spectacular new headquarters and national distribution centre.

In those days the retail chain was looking indomitable and each time I spoke to the then boss he would be talking about further expansion plans across the country.

But how quickly it has soured in recent years and now the business is about to vanish despite the most spectacular sporting summer in British history.

Pulling no punches Mr Whelan, who is proving you can make a success out of sports retail in the recession with his DW Sports Fitness chain, lays much of the blame for the demise of his old empire at the door of mismanagement.

I think it is possibly more complicated than that but whatever the reasons this is a tragic week for what was once one of the biggest and most successful employers in the borough.

It is difficult to see how any buyers could save many of the headquarters jobs but we can live in hope. Meanwhile the vultures are wheeling to pick off the few successful stores.