Sports Direct to save JJB jobs

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UP TO 1,500 JJB jobs could be saved as the company’s oldest rival swoops for up to 60 stores.

Sources close to the sale of the crisis-hit Wigan-based firm say Sports Direct is prepared to pay £30m, although the deal would be subject to approval from the Office of Fair Trading.

Sports Direct, controlled by Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, will take over 20 outlets immediately after an agreement is confirmed, with the remaining 40 following after approval from competition regulators.

Business insiders had this week suggested that the Martland Mill HQ would close if a deal was agreed, although it is believed Sports Direct will look to provide jobs for 1,000 to 1,500 JJB employees across the country. Details of which shops will be among the 60 given a reprieve have yet to emerge.

A spokesman for JJB confirmed that a deal had not yet been finalised, but that an announcement was expected very soon.

Sports Direct has been the front-runner to pick up its rival’s most profitable stores since the company put itself up for sale at the start of the month.

Earlier this week, JJB said it would be appointing administrators to sell its assets and brands, having failed to receive an offer for the entire company.

Speaking to Sky News on Monday, founder Dave Whelan said: “I believe there is a maximum of 25 of JJB 180 stores making money, and while a lot of the business is worthless, I would be interested in taking over some of the good stores, perhaps 20 to 30.”

Any JJB workers who may be affected by redundancy have been offered a lifeline by a specialist charity.

The Fashion and Textile Children’s Trust (FTCT) is asking for any employees to get in touch if they encounter hardship as a result of losing their jobs.

Fund-raising manager Jill Robertson,said: “We are a small charity, but we can offer grants to children whose parents have been affected by what is happening. We are able to provide financial support for any parents or workers in the UK fashion and textile industry. It can be workers at JJB’s head office, or retail stores.

“In most cases, these grants help to provide life essentials, such as clothing or bedding for their child, helping to bridge the gap, while the family get back on their feet.

“We are keen to stress that FTCT wishes to remain neutral on the issues affecting JJB, and seeks solely to provide information about the support we can provide to employees.”

JJB employees are asked to visit www,ftct.org.uk, or call in confidence on 020-7170-4117.