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Hundreds of jobs at risk after Mike Ashley’s group confirms purchase of troubled retailer

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct International plc has bought Evans Cycles after the chain went into administration today, but says that it will have to shut around half its 62 stores, with the potential loss of hundreds of jobs.

Last month, ECI Partners, the private equity owners of Evans – founded in south London in 1921 – gave bidders a week to produce offers for the struggling business, the UK’s largest bricks-and-mortar specialist bike retailer.

Although Halfords and JD Sports Fashion were also reported to be among those mulling an offer, in recent weeks it has become apparent that the only potentially viable offer would be from Sports Direct, which in September rescued the department store chain, House of Fraser.

Evans, in common with other retailers that principally trade on the High Street, has suffered from a combination of price competition from online operators, as well as rising overheads such as rent.

In a statement, Ashley, who besides a majority stake in Sports Direct also owns Newcastle United Football Club, said: "In order to save the business, we only believe we will be able to keep 50 per cent of stores open in the future."

Sports Direct is being advised by commercial property firm CBRE. The firm’s head of national agency, James Keany, said: “We are looking forward to working with landlords in order to help create a sustainable business.

"We will make contact with landlords over the next few days and discuss the future of individual stores."

In October last year, Sports Direct – already owner of the Muddy Fox mountain bike brand – made its first major move into high-end bike retailing with the acquisition of Tri UK, announcing plans to expand the Yeovil-based business to a further five stores.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.