Sportswear tycoon Mike Ashley is said to be eyeing a bid for arch rival Dave Whelan’s fallen sports chain ahead of Frasers Group’s annual results this week.
Frasers, formerly known as Sports Direct, has reportedly tabled a bid for DW Sports, which has 73 gyms and 75 shops. Earlier this month, advisers at BDO were drafted in to handle the administration process, putting 1,700 jobs at risk at DW Sports. Only 42 of its gyms and 44 stores are open.
An offer from Mr Ashley would mark a return of the highly acquisitive billionaire after he paused his buying spree over the last few months.
He has amassed a stable of brands including House of Fraser, Jack Wills, Sofa.com and Game Digital over the years, but he has resisted pouncing on distressed rivals despite a flurry of retail collapses. Frasers is understood to have put forward £30m for the business, first reported in The Sunday Times.
The rivalry between Mr Ashley, 55, and Mr Whelan, 83, a former Blackburn Rovers defender who set up a rival sports retailer in Wigan, spans two decades.
Mr Whelan famously told Mr Ashley, who set up shop in Maidenhead: “There is a club in the North, son, and you’re not part of it.”
The Sports Direct billionaire then blew the whistle on a process to fix the price of football shirts, which involved Mr Whelan’s firm.
Frasers is expected to update the City on its delayed annual results on Thursday. The company said last week it wanted to give auditors at RSM time to make sure the financial accounts were reviewed properly.
It said “there are no significant matters to address” this week after last year an 11-hour tax row with the Belgian authorities, which has now been resolved, delayed its results.
A BDO spokesman said that it had received a number of “serious and credible offers” and it was engaging with the bidders. It declined, however, to comment on the identities of the suitors and the value of the bids.
The Whelans also own Fitness First, not affected by the collapse.