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Mike Ashley’s sportswear company probed

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TOON owner Mike Ashley’s sportswear company is at the centre of a Government probe into unfair trading.


The tycoon has been forced to make an offer to sell his stores in five UK towns to avoid punishment for breaching competition laws.


An investigation by the Office of Fair Trading has found the takeover by Ashley’s Sports Direct International Plc of dozens of JJB Sports stores may have breached regulations.


The OFT is now considering an offer by Sports Direct to sell off shops in five local areas following its acquisition of 31 stores from JJB Sports Plc.


Sports Direct and JJB are the two largest specialist retailers of sports-related clothing, footwear and equipment in the UK.


Ashley bought the stores from JJB in a series of separate deals over a two year period but under merger legislation, the OFT was able to review the deal as one individual transaction.


The OFT has now ruled that the buy-out “raised competition concerns” in areas where Sports Direct already had existing stores.


Sports Direct has offered to sell offending outlets to up-front buyers approved by the OFT.


Amelia Fletcher, OFT senior director of mergers, said: “The OFT used its discretion in this case to roll a number of separate acquisitions of JJB stores by Sports Direct over the last two years into a single investigation, given that the overall impact on consumers had the potential to be significant.


“Although our investigation indicated that the purchase of these stores had not reduced competition at a national level, we identified concerns in five local areas that needed to be addressed.”


If the divestments are not accepted, then a referral to the Competition Commission will be necessary.


The Government wrangle is the latest in a series of financial setbacks for the Newcastle United chief.


Last week it was revealed that Ashley had lost millions of his fortune in the global credit crunch.


The Sunday Times Rich List for 2009 showed the 44-year-old had suffered the biggest decline in his bank balance of anyone tycoon in the North East.


Ashley lost his billionaire status having seen the value of his assets plummet from £1,398m to £700m, but still comes out as the richest person in the region.




Just as well he made a good profit from selling our players, other wise he'd be further in the shit.....poor fucker, only 700 Million in the bank.

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