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Private equity firm ECI Partners leads chase to buy Evans

52-store chain reports increased turnover and profit

Rumours have been circulating for months that bike shop chain Evans is up for sale. The latest reports put private equity firm ECI Partners at the head of the pack chasing the chance to stump up around £100 million for the 52-shop, 1,200-employee business.

According to the Telegraph's Ashley Armstrong and Ben Marlow other firms in the running include Cotswold Outdoor PAI Partners, Equistone and Graphite.

Evans became a potentially more attractive prospect to investors when it recently posted a pre-tax profit on ordinary activities of £2m for the year ending November 1, compared with a loss of £98,000 in the previous year.

In that period Evans opened five new stores and increased turnover 11.4 percent to £127 million.

Two major retailing names have previously been reported as being interested in acquiring Evans, but dropped out of contention. Halfords is said to have ruled itself out in favour of focusing on its Bicycle Republic high street store project.

Mike Ashley, owner of Sports Direct and Newcastle United Football club, was reported to be interested in acquiring Evans as a way of expanding his sport retail empire into cycling.

However, at the end of last year, the CEO of Evans' owner Active Capital Nick Wilkinson told BikeBiz: “We are committed to investing in UK cycling. My vision is for our brand to inspire more people to enjoy their riding. Whatever the outcome of our strategic review, that view of the future will stay the same.”

Active Capital acquired Evans for £35 million in 2008.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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