The UK's leading sports retailers are being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) for a suspected cartel. The move comes after JJB said it had blown the whistle on the cartel activity and offered full co-operation with the Office of Fair Trading in exchange for immunity from financial penalties of up to ten per cent of turnover. The news thrusts JJB and Sports Direct back into the spotlight after a summer feud between Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley and JJB chairman Sir David Jones over a £15m loan Ashley made to a Jones family business. In March, JJB sacked former chief executive Chris Ronnie, a friend of Ashley's, after Ronnie's shares were seized by the liquidators of Icelandic bank Kaupthing.
The retailers have seldom been out of the headlines this year after the spat over Ashley's loan, Ronnie's removal and JJB's recovery from administration. The news of the SFO investigation was heavily covered and followed up in many Sunday papers. The Sunday Telegraph quoted one of JJB's biggest shareholders as saying it was 'about time' there was a probe into JJB's relationship with Sports Direct.
Who are the PR players?
JJB uses Maitland for its financial PR. Sports Direct uses FD as its retained financial agency and Ashley himself has retained Powerscourt since his row with Jones.
What happens next?
SFO investigations are seldom rapidly concluded and both firms will be keen to keep out of the headlines, particularly as Sports Direct is already being investigated by the Competition Commission over its purchase of 31 JJB stores.
£100m - Size of the fine the Daily Mail said Sports Direct could face.