Chairman of Frasers Group Mike Ashley has offered to buy retail chain Footasylum from rival JD Sports (JD), and has notified the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), according to The Sunday Times.
The developments are the latest chapter in the power struggle between Britain’s two biggest trainer tycoons: Ashley who owns Frasers which includes Sports Direct (valued at £3.8bn), and Peter Cargill, executive chairman of JD (valued at £10.9bn)
It follows reports earlier this month from the same newspaper that JD was poised to give up on its long-running battle with the CMA to keep hold of Footasylum.
JD has been pushing to gain approval for its takeover, since it agreed to buy the smaller chain for £90m in March 2019.
Last month, the CMA ordered JD to sell Footasylum and its 65 stores – arguing the takeover could harm competition.
The CMA said 40 per cent of Footasylum customers for footwear would go to JD if they could not shop there, which is higher than for any other retailer.
JD declined to comment on Ashley’s approach, but said the CMA’s verdict “defies logic”.
The escalating retail conflict over acquiring Footasylum follows the boom in ‘athleisure’ with consumers scrambling for in-demand designs from leading brands such as Nike and Adidas.
As the self-styled “king of trainers”, JD spotted the trend early and is known for winning supplies of the most in-demand trainers.
Sports Direct, which specialises in value sportswear and sports goods, is understood to believe there is less crossover between it and Footasylum, which is known for high-end trainers.
It is understood to have made the approach a month ago. The CMA told The Sunday Times it would ensure that any purchaser runs the chain as a “fully independent competitor” but it “cannot speculate on potential purchasers of Footasylum from JD Sports.
Ashley’s latest move follows speculation that Frasers Group could go private next year, following strong trading results.