JJB future hanging in the balance

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THE future of one of Wigan’s biggest employers hangs in the balance today after bosses finally admitted a rival is interested in taking it over.

Rumours had been circulating since November that JD Sports was interested in bidding for troubled competitor JJB.

But only this week have both companies announced there had indeed been preliminary discussions about such a move.

Angry unions today said they had been “taken completely by surprise” by the announcement, and fears were growing about the implications for the troubled Wigan company’s 6,300-strong national workforce and its 500-plus headquarters and warehouse staff, based at Martland Park.

Both firms’ share prices leapt at the news, but JJB has had to cope with a litany of woes in the last two years, which included having to sell off some of its most profitable stores, along with associated gyms, to avoid going into administration.

The initial reaction today was there were bound to be redundancies – especially where JJB Sports and Bury-based JD have shops in the same place.

But one businessman and former shareholder, who does not wish to be identified, says any deal might work out quite well for Wigan.

He added: “I knew JJB was always going to struggle after selling off the gyms, but a merger with JD might be the best result for the Wigan company.

“JD doesn’t have a big headquarters of its own, and had been talking to JJB about some kind of shared HQ operation at Martland Park many months ago.

“So if there is a takeover, my guess is that there will be more negative implications job-wise for Bury than Wigan.

“There will inevitably be some rationalisation, especially where JJB and JD stores are duplicated.

“But if it were to buy head office and certain stores, it could be a good deal for JD too.”