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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.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.