Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group saves 922 jobs in £37m DW deal


Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has bought some assets of DW Sports out of administration in a £37m deal, saving 922 jobs.

The sports retailer and gyms group collapsed earlier this month after its income was wiped out during the coronavirus lockdown.

Mr Ashley, the Sports Direct tycoon and Newcastle United owner, has acquired 40 leisure clubs and 31 shops in the deal announced on Monday.

Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley
Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group is founded on the tycoon’s Sports Direct chain

A further three clubs currently unable to reopen due to COVID-19 restrictions have also been transferred to Frasers.

But the transaction does not include the name of the business – which was founded by Dave Whelan, the former Wigan Athletic owner who was once Mr Ashley’s rival in the sportswear sector.

Administrators BDO said that at the time of its collapses, DW Sports operated 72 leisure clubs and 50 retail outlets across the UK, employing 1,800 people.

It had already shut a number of stores prior to the administration while it “became necessary to close a further 19 outlets and 29 leisure clubs” since then, BDO said.

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But some of those “may additionally be reopened… in due course” by the new owner, the administrator added.

Graham Newton, business restructuring partner at BDO, said: “We are pleased to have achieved a sale of a significant part of the DW Sports business as a going concern, as this will not only secure employment for the majority of employees, but should also result in a return to the Company’s creditors in due course.”

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Frasers said the business would be developed under the Everlast brand that it already owns.

The group, centred on Mr Ashley’s Sports Direct chain, is aiming to become more upmarket under an “elevation” strategy.

It changed its name to Frasers Group following the acquisition of struggling department store chain House of Fraser, also bought out of administration.

The price of the DW deal could rise to £43.9m if Frasers eventually acquires some leaseholds as part of it.

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It said: “Frasers group looks forward to elevating the gym and fitness assets acquired pursuant to the transaction under the group’s existing iconic Everlast brand, and is also pleased to have saved a number of jobs.”

The deal adds to a series of acquisitions of brands by Mr Ashley including Jack Wills and Evans Cycles.

Last week, Frasers reported a slump in annual profits of nearly 20% as the coronavirus lockdown took its toll and warned of further closures of House of Fraser sites – but also issued an optimistic outlook for earnings in the coming year.

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