JD Sports holds talks with Debenhams over takeover of department store

JD Sports holds exclusive talks with Debenhams over ‘£300m’ takeover of ailing department store – after rival Sports Direct was rejected last month

  • Debenhams, which has 124 stores, went into administration again back in April
  • JD Sports keen to snap up the stores and revitalise the Debenhams website 
  • News will infuriate Mike Ashley, who has been trying to buy the firm for years

JD Sports and Debenhams are in talks over a rescue package for the department store chain that could save thousands of jobs before Christmas.

Debenhams, which has 124 stores and 12,000 staff, went into administration in April for the second time in two years as it was hammered by the pandemic. 

However, JD Sports is understood to be interested in buying out the whole company, which has previously been the subject of a £300m price tag, and has began exclusive discussions with advisers and administrators.

However, JD Sports is understood to be interested in buying out the whole company, which has previously been the subject of a £300m price tag, and has began exclusive discussions with advisers and administrators.

However, JD Sports is understood to be interested in buying out the whole company, which has previously been the subject of a £300m price tag, and has began exclusive discussions with advisers and administrators

Debenhams has renegotiated with landlords this year to free itself from expensive and lengthy leases that made it unattractive to a buyer, while a restructuring plan shown to prospective buyers proposes cutting the number of stores by more than half.

If such a deal were to be agreed, it would be a huge boost to the retail sector, with many fearing the department store was destined to be the latest victim of the high street bloodbath sparked by coronavirus. 

JD Sports boss Peter Cowgill believes he would be getting a bargain by snapping up the stores and hopes to be able to revitalise Debenhams’ website, which despite its decline remains one of the UK’s most popular places to shop online. 

The sportswear giant has no interest in stocking its own brands within the department stores, however.

The news will infuriate Mike Ashley, the founder of JD’s rival Sports Direct, who has been trying to buy Debenhams for years. 

Mr Ashley, who is the majority owner of fellow high street giant Frasers Group, previously had a £150m stake in Debenhams but saw it wiped out in a debt-for-equity swap.


JD Sports boss Peter Cowgill (pictured left) believes he would be getting a bargain by snapping up the stores and hopes to be able to revitalise Debenhams’ website. But the news will infuriate Mike Ashley (pictured right), the founder of JD’s rival Sports Direct, who has been trying to buy Debenhams for years

Just weeks ago, he saw a bid, believed to be around the £125m mark, rejected as it barely marked half of the price administrators are hoping to secure. 

He also failed to get hold of sufficient data on how stores were performing, which Debenhams advisers are keen to avoid given Mr Ashley’s involvement with rival chain, House of Fraser.

An industry source told the Times that Mr Cowgill was a ‘shrewd retailer’, with JD Sports boasting a track record of buying struggling high street names including Footasylum and Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green brand. 

Debenhams had looked certain to be one of the biggest casualties of the high street bloodbath, with major UK firms revealing well over 200,000 job losses since lockdown began. 

How nearly 219,000 job losses have been revealed by major UK firms since lockdown began 

More than 200,000 job losses have been announced by major British employers since the start of the coronavirus lockdown in March as follows:

  • November 19 – Peacocks and Jaeger – 4,700
  • November 13 – Greggs – 820 
  • November 5 – Sainsbury’s and Argos – 3,500 
  • November 4 – John Lewis – 1,500 
  • November 4 – Lloyds – 1,070 
  • October 29 – Pizza Express – 1,300 
  • October 7 – Greene King – 800 
  • October 6 – Virgin Money – 400 
  • October 6 – Vp – 150 
  • October 5 – Cineworld – 5,500 (many cuts likely to be temporary) 
  • September 30 – TSB – 900 
  • September 30 – Shell – 9,000 worldwide 
  • September 29 – Ferguson – 1,200
  • September 22 – Wetherspoon – 400 to 450
  • September 22 – Whitbread – 6,000
  • September 18 – Investec – 210
  • September 15 – Waitrose – 124
  • September 14 – London City Airport – 239
  • September 9 – Lloyds Bank – 865
  • September 9 – Pizza Hut – 450
  • September 4 – Virgin Atlantic – 1,150
  • September 3 – Costa – 1,650
  • August 27 – Pret a Manger – 2,800 (includes 1,000 announced on July 6)
  • August 26 – Gatwick Airport – 600
  • August 25 – Co-operative Bank – 350
  • August 20 – Alexander Dennis – 650
  • August 18 – Bombardier – 95
  • August 18 – Marks & Spencer – 7,000
  • August 14 – Yo! Sushi – 250
  • August 14 – River Island – 350
  • August 12 – NatWest – 550
  • August 11 – InterContinental Hotels – 650 worldwide
  • August 11 – Debenhams – 2,500
  • August 7 – Evening Standard – 115
  • August 6 – Travelex – 1,300
  • August 6 – Wetherspoons – 110 to 130
  • August 5 – M&Co – 380
  • August 5 – Arsenal FC – 55
  • August 5 – WH Smith – 1,500
  • August 4 – Dixons Carphone – 800
  • August 4 – Pizza Express – 1,100 at risk
  • August 3 – Hays Travel – up to 878
  • August 3 – DW Sports – 1,700 at risk
  • July 31 – Byron – 651
  • July 30 – Pendragon – 1,800
  • July 29 – Waterstones – unknown number of head office roles
  • July 28 – Selfridges – 450
  • July 27 – Oak Furnitureland – 163 at risk
  • July 23 – Dyson – 600 in UK, 300 overseas
  • July 22 – Mears – fewer than 200
  • July 20 – Marks & Spencer – 950 at risk
  • July 17 – Azzurri Group (owns Zizzi and Ask Italian) – up to 1,200
  • July 16 – Genting – 1,642 at risk
  • July 16 – Burberry – 150 in UK, 350 overseas
  • July 15 – Banks Mining – 250 at risk
  • July 15 – Buzz Bingo – 573 at risk
  • July 14 – Vertu – 345 July 14 – DFS – up to 200 at risk
  • July 9 – General Electric – 369
  • July 9 – Eurostar – unknown number
  • July 9 – Boots – 4,000
  • July 9 – John Lewis – 1,300 at risk
  • July 9 – Burger King – 1,600 at risk
  • July 7 – Reach (owns Daily Mirror and Daily Express newspapers) – 550
  • July 6 – Pret a Manger – 1,000 at risk
  • July 2 – Casual Dining Group (owns Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge) – 1,909
  • July 1 – SSP (owns Upper Crust) – 5,000 at risk
  • July 1 – Arcadia (owns TopShop) – 500
  • July 1 – Harrods – 700
  • July 1 – Virgin Money – 300
  • June 30 – Airbus – 1,700
  • June 30 – TM Lewin – 600
  • June 30 – Smiths Group – ‘some job losses’
  • June 25 – Royal Mail – 2,000
  • June 24 – Jet2 – 102
  • June 24 – Swissport – 4,556
  • June 24 – Crest Nicholson – 130
  • June 23 – Shoe Zone – unknown number of jobs in head office
  • June 19 – Aer Lingus – 500
  • June 17 – HSBC – unknown number of jobs in UK, 35,000 worldwide
  • June 15 – Jaguar Land Rover – 1,100
  • June 15 – Travis Perkins – 2,500
  • June 12 – Le Pain Quotidien – 200
  • June 11 – Heathrow – at least 500
  • June 11 – Bombardier – 600
  • June 11 – Johnson Matthey – 2,500
  • June 11 – Centrica – 5,000
  • June 10 – Quiz – 93
  • June 10 – The Restaurant Group (owns Frankie and Benny’s) – 3,000
  • June 10 – Monsoon Accessorise – 545
  • June 10 – Everest Windows – 188
  • June 8 – BP – 10,000 worldwide
  • June 8 – Mulberry – 375
  • June 5 – Victoria’s Secret – 800 at risk
  • June 5 – Bentley – 1,000
  • June 4 – Aston Martin – 500
  • June 4 – Lookers – 1,500
  • May 29 – Belfast International Airport – 45
  • May 28 – Debenhams (in second announcement) – ‘hundreds’ of jobs
  • May 28 – EasyJet – 4,500 worldwide
  • May 26 – McLaren – 1,200
  • May 22 – Carluccio’s – 1,000
  • May 21 – Clarks – 900
  • May 20 – Rolls-Royce – 9,000
  • May 20 – Bovis Homes – unknown number
  • May 19 – Ovo Energy – 2,600
  • May 19 – Antler – 164
  • May 15 – JCB – 950 at risk
  • May 13 – Tui – 8,000 worldwide
  • May 12 – Carnival UK (owns P&O Cruises and Cunard) – 450
  • May 11 – P&O Ferries – 1,100 worldwide
  • May 5 – Virgin Atlantic – 3,150
  • May 1 – Ryanair – 3,000 worldwide
  • April 30 – Oasis Warehouse – 1,800
  • April 29 – WPP – unknown number
  • April 28 – British Airways – 12,000
  • April 23 – Safran Seats – 400
  • April 23 – Meggitt – 1,800 worldwide
  • April 21 – Cath Kidston – 900
  • April 17 – Debenhams – 422
  • March 31 – Laura Ashley – 268
  • March 30 – BrightHouse – 2,400 at risk
  • March 27 – Chiquito – 1,500 at risk

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